Tosca in Shades of Pastel
|Elena Stikhina, photo @ Ken Howard|
My luck ran out on January 14, 2022 when I finally saw what I had previously thought impossible -- a boring Tosca. It was so lifeless, so pale, that it felt like the entire evening was in shades of pastel pink and lavender. No primary colors.
It wasn't badly sung. On the contrary, the leading lady Elena Stikhina has one of the loveliest voices heard in recent memory. She has a medium-sized lyric voice that remains round and velvety all the way up to high C. There's no shrillness, no pushing -- she just opened her mouth, and lovely sounds came out. She also looks darling -- huge eyes, a petite build. You could imagine her being totally fetching as a Mimì or Liù.
|Calleja and Stikhina, photo @ Ken Howard|
Veteran tenor Joseph Calleja never was a very involved actor, but he was more torpid last night than usual. He barely attempted to paint. His body langauge towards Angelotti was so frosty and distant that the driving storyline of Cavarodossi helping his fugitive friend made no impact. Calleja's voice retains its lovely, warm quality but the high notes bleat under pressure.
Calleja is also not a singer that connects to the text. "Recondita armonia" sounded lovely, and that was the high point of his night. But the later scenes with Tosca and Scarpia were sleepwalked through and again, deadly dull.
|Gagnidze and Stikhina, photo @ Ken Howard|
Conductor Carlo Rizzi was completely uninspired and uninvolved in the pit. He indulged all the singers' worst traits -- Stikhina and Calleja both tend to sing behind the best, so Rizzi would slow the orchestra down to a crawl. But somehow, Stikhina would find a way to sing even more behind the beat. The result was that Puccini's vivid, slashing orchestration sounded like muzak.
Ever since omicron tore through NYC in mid-December, Broadway shows and other performing arts have shut down or canceled shows. NYCB just postponed their winter season to the end of January. The Met is the rare institution that has not had to cancel any shows. You want to root for the Met in a time like this. Last night's listless, uninspired Tosca did not make a strong case for the company. At the end of the second act, many members of the already-sparse crowd made a beeline for the exits. I rarely leave shows early unless it's an emergency. But I knew that the evening was not going to get better, so I also left before Act 3.