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Thursday, 15 November 2012

Paris finally gets to hear and see Martina Serafin as Tosca

It has been a long time coming, but Austrian soprano Martina Serafin has finally made her Paris debut - singing the part of Tosca in Puccini's opera of the same name.

"Tosca" is arguably one of the most popular operas around - well that's if you take a look at how often it's performed during festivals and the frequency with which the main Houses around the world slip it into their schedules.

And that's in spite of - or perhaps because of - its surely preposterous plot.

As this is the 21st century and the age of social networking sites, what better way to outline what takes place on stage than Twitter style (the other option was a Daily Mail-type headline, but dear reader, you have been spared).

"Tosca - passion, sex and jealousy in 1800 Rome. 4 main characters belt out Puccini's great score before, one by one, popping their clogs."

How many characters is that?

If you would like more info then scoot over to those nice folk at Wikipedia or try this site for starters.

Anyway "Tosca" is back at Opéra Bastille - a sure fire hit with the public as it's...well, such an accessible piece.

Besides this is opera - darlings - and with tickets at premium prices, it must be good.


Well almost.

Perhaps it's something of a shame that the current version has had nothing spared on it in terms of set design...apart from money and imagination.

Very early 19th century Rome it is not. Still at least audiences  aren't distracted from the singing, the voices and the wonderful music.

And what of those performances?

Under the direction of Paolo Carignani, the Orchestre National de Paris gets the whole thing started of course, although there's the odd occasion when you have to strain to hear some of the voices above the music.

Sergey Murzaev as the police chief Scarpia, will give you the spooks.

Calin Bratescu does a fine job as the artist/lover Mario Cavaradossi and dies exceedlingly well in front of the firing squad.

And there's no faulting Nicolas Testé as Cesare Angelotti the political prisoner on-the-run, probably because he's dead (suicide) by the middle of the second act having been last heard singing at the end of the first act.

Martina Serafin (screenshot from Verona performance of Tosca)

The star - in all senses of the word though - apart from Puccini's magnificent score - has to be (Floria) Tosca herself, performed by Martina Serafin.

It's a role the Austrian-born Soprano has very much made her trademark, if you will, in recent years, having sung it in London, Rome, Vienna, Berlin, Verona and Milan.

But this is her first time in Paris - hurrah and a definite operatic "bravo" - as she brings a stage presence that combines acting...yes opera singers do that now...with a great voice.

And then there's THAT aria...

Well take a listen to this clip of her performing "Vissi d'arte" in Verona this summer.

Tosca runs until November 20 and will be replaced by another couple of crackers - Rossini's "La Cenerentola" and another pack 'em in without trying kind of opera, Bizet's "Carmen".

And Serafin? Well she'll be back in Paris in February singing the part of Sieglinde in Wagner's "Die Walküre" ("The Valkyrie") , the second part of "Der Ring des Nibelungen" ("The Ring of the Nibelung").

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