Tuesday 6 December 2011

Where did Cavaradossi paint the Attavanti?

You reckon you know, and in terms of what Puccini, Giacosa and Illica wanted from the first Roman location of Tosca, you'd be right: the huge Church of Sant'Andrea della Valle near the Campo dei Fiori and the Palazzo Farnese. When I last went inside some years ago, I didn't find it up to the artistic scratch of its other grandiose near-neighbours, Sant'Ignazio or the Gesu. But I read that Domenichino had a hand in the decoration, so maybe I need to take another look.

The point, though, is that productions like Catherine Malfitano's generally clear and human one for ENO (Gwyn Hughes Jones's Cavaradossi and Henry Waddington's Sacristan pictured above by Mike Hoban) don't need to aim for massiveness when Sardou's original play gives them another cue. His first directions are for 'The Saint Andrew of the Jesuits Church in Rome'. By which he means the much smaller, more perfect church of Sant'Andrea al Quirinale.

Sardou continues: 'Architect Bernini: fully curved arches above large plain pillars of white marble with red veneer'. So he knew it; and I do, too, and love its oval perfection almost as much as Borromini's San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane just down the road. But again I haven't been inside for some years, so I'm grateful for these Wiki images.

Changing the location does give a designer the option for a tighter, less blowsily Baroque setting for Act 1. But of course the several Toscas filmed on location always use the bigger church. Why, in these, does Domingo's Cavaradossi have to be such a bad artist? In the first film, with dubbed soundtrack (but better singing) his Attavanti Magdalen is a piece of Woolworth's soft porn. Never mind the 'art'; feel the quality of the singing.

And enjoy Gigli as a lighter Cavaradossi, though I've come across none - and we heard about ten snippets from various 'Recondita armonia's in the second of our five Tosca class at the City Lit - who sings the opening piano against dolcissimo strings as requested.

I'm most in love with the blooming, sensuous love-triangle of Carreras, Ricciarelli and Karajan among the sound recordings of this act. What ardour in the second half of the love duet.

Anyway, on my four-hour trek across Rome, I did suddenly think I should pay homage once more to each of the opera's venues. Sant' Andrea della Valle was closed at 3pm, of course, but here's another, this time rather modest Roman fountain before it.

Next time a tour of the Palazzo Farnese - apparently they're more frequent than they used to be - is essential to see Annibale Carracci's profane ceiling fresco celebrating 'the triumph of love' with the coruscating cortege of Bacchus and Ariadne, well evoked in Robert Hughes's Rome.

Where Scarpia's room might be is an irrelevance. Again, in Sardou's La Tosca Act 4, it's a much sparser affair in the Castel Sant'Angelo; in Act 2 we have the grand Farnese reception which takes place offstage in the opera, complete in the play with Queen Marie-Caroline of Naples (who faints at the news of Napoleon's victory), the Marquis Attavanti and Paisiello. A sun-lit sidewall

and the back view from the Via Giulia

should ring the changes. And finally, of course, the Castel Sant'Angelo once again, which glowed rather benignly in the late afternoon sun.


John in the Lot said...

David, if you didn’t see the 2011 Royal Opera House production of Tosca, with Gheorgiou, Terfel and Kaufmann get a copy of the DVD which will surely be released soon! I have never seen a performance of Tosca which had three such excellent singers in the principal roles. The acting, as well as the singing, was superlative. I watched it on a big screen in a cinema near where we live in France and was extremely impressed. Even though you miss the ambience of the room, and can’t feel the power of the voices filling the acoustic, it was well worth the one hour drive. The video director did tend to use close ups too much, which didn’t worry me, but did disturb my companions. There’s more detail and a couple of extracts in my review here. http://johnpreedy.blogspot.com/2011/11/tosca.html

Next Spring, about an hour in the opposite direction, there will be a live relay of Götterdammerung from the Met. I’m tempted, but it will finish at about half past midnight and I’m trying to convince myself that I will be sufficiently awake for the drive home through the deserted French countryside!

David said...

I saw the first run at the Garden, John, with Gheorghiu, Terfel and Alvarez. I can well believe handsome Jonas completed the right casting this time, and that in cine-close-up all were ideal (though I prefer a suave rather than an oily Scarpia). Live, the Diva was a bit much for Angela: like Ricciarelli on my favourite recording, superb in the first act, a little underpowered in Act 2.

The production, alas, isn't a patch on Malfitano's at ENO. Though that had plausibly youngish, attractive lovers first time, too; less so now.

Andras said...

Fascinating - is the Sardou play available in translation?

David said...

Only, it seems, in an obscure New York imprint: I got mine via the Maddermarket Company in Norwich, who staged it very well. A play well worth doing, like Preissova's Jenufa which moved me so much at the Arcola - perhaps a series of readings in London would go down well?

Susan Scheid said...

"Where did Cavaradossi paint the Attavanti?" I ask myself that on a daily basis . . . Ah, what I don't know is proven, once again, to fill volumes. Yet, when I listened to your clips, I thought, isn't it interesting how familiar this beautiful music is to me? The edu-mate identified the year as 1985; I knew it was the Met, and we both knew it was "someone famous" singing the role of Cavaradossi. Web to the rescue, and yes, it was Placido Domingo. Now, as for your Rome tour, that last photograph--the light, the perspective--the . . . excuse me, but may I be excused to go to Rome right this minute? As I can't though, I thank you for bringing it to me.

David said...

Irony first, Susan? How unlike you...The question might be Transtro(e)mer's, no? Whom I can't thank you enough for introducing me to at such a timely moment - the collected poems arrived yesterday, and there was a line about Liszt's La lugubre gondola which came in perfect (I thought) for a review. But I love this man already.

The Tosca arias are so familiar from a thousand excerpts, and yet...the music itself is so beautifully crafted and scored that I soon found I wasn't on quite as familiar ground as I thought taking the class through the opera for the second time in twenty years.

David Damant said...

I have always thought that the second act of Tosca is an opera in itself. The pronouncement "And to think all Rome was afraid of him" completes the drama perfectly. Also it is appropriately performed in a room far smaller than an opera house. I once put it on with Sue Bullock and Robert Hayward and it was tremendous being so close

Has anyone ( I exclude the perfectionists who may already be annoyed) suggestions for acts of other operas which can be extracted in this way?