Saturday, October 10, 2009

The lady in red

Today in between running errands I caught the part of "Tosca" that is close to the end, when Mario is about to be shot by the firing squad, and then Tosca shows up and tells him about how she has killed Scarpia and everything is about to be all right.

That is just like a woman! I almost had to laugh about that even though I knew the tragedy that was about to unfold. Tosca is like me! I am always breezing in telling people everything is going to be fine, I have fixed everything.

I hate that part of "Tosca" where you hear that calm music as Mario is led to the scaffold, or whatever it is called where they execute prisoners by firing squad.

Those calm rhythms. Everything is taken care of ... at least we think so, is what the music is saying. He is going to fake being killed. Everything is going to be all right. And Tosca is watching. There is this awful moment when she says to herself how handsome Maria looks.

And that calm phrase in the music just keeps repeating. Noncommittal.

Then you hear the shots.

This is awful but I had tears in my eyes.

That opera gets me!

I understand the Met production, which stars Karita Mattila and Marcelo Alvarez, raised eyebrows production-wise and got a few boos. For one thing the sets were "spare and soaring," according to Vogue magazine. Joan Juliet Buck, writing in Vogue, defended it. In England the Guardian also blames the audience for being provincial and too set in its ways to accept the staging.

Here is what I think though: isn't it funny that sets always get more spare? They never seem to grow more lavish. I would like to see a set designer make news by being more lavish and detailed than any set before. This minimalist stuff, we've seen it. It has been done.

That is Miss Mattila up above as Floria Tosca. Here is another picture that shows the set. It looks like "West Side Story." As if Tosca is sitting on a fire escape!

Both the writers I just linked to also speculated that the audience may have been offended by the half-nudity of the painting. Oh, please. That is all I can say to that.

Another thing about this "Tosca" is the director removed religious references. The church in Act I, I read, looks like a prison. And when Tosca kills Scarpia, she does not lay a crucifix on his chest the way the opera calls for her to do.

That is too bad. Getting rid of the Catholic references would take away from "Tosca"'s peculiar haunting quality. That part in "Vissi d'Arte" when she talks about leaving the flowers for the Blessed Virgin, are they going to take that out too? That is another part of the opera that gets me.

Everyone is out to make everything secular and the world is not the better for that.

Here is something funny about "Tosca." Mario ... quick, what is his last name? Cavaradossi.

It takes me forever to get that right.

And on the Huffington Post, lo and behold, the caption reads "Caravadossi."

No one can get it right!


  1. I have an unusual (maybe) question for you - help! My fiancee's parents are taking us to the opera this weekend, Der Rosenkavalier, his step-father's favourite. I love, am moved by and perform instrumental classical music (in solitude in my home usually), and could very easily deal with a Mozart opera (who couldn't), but I've really never been interested in opera at all.

    My question is - is there anything I can listen for or something I can focus on to try to appreciate the Strauss on Friday night?

  2. Ola, thanks for the question! I love "Rosenkavalier" -- it was the first opera I ever saw, when I was 16 -- and I can't tell you how envious I am that you get to go see it at the Met (right?)! I'll get right on this so with luck you can read what I write before you go.