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Tosca review at the Royal Opera House – ‘Gheorghiu does not disappoint’

Samuel Youn and Angela Gheorghiu in Tosca at the Royal Opera House. Photo: Catherine Ashmore Samuel Youn and Angela Gheorghiu in Tosca at the Royal Opera House. Photo: Catherine Ashmore
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Headlining the first of two casts offered in the current revival of Puccini’s thriller, Romanian diva Angela Gheorghiu returns to star in Jonathan Kent’s staging, for which she created the title role in 2006.

Nine years on, her Tosca remains a force to be reckoned with, giving a performance delivered with dramatic insight and tonal nuance: she stops the show with her focused account of the famous Act 2 aria Vissi D’Arte. If there’s a touch of the kittenish about Gheorghiu’s demeanour elsewhere, at her best she dominates the evening.

That’s partly because neither of the other two leads quite hits the spot. Italian tenor Riccardo Massi returns as her lover, Cavaradossi – he’s never less than competent, but his voice is not especially exciting and he’s an unengaging actor. Korean bass-baritone Samuel Youn is more notable as Tosca’s nemesis, Baron Scarpia, but he’s a crude villain, in places given to shouting rather than singing, and lacking the cool, cruel sophistication of Puccini’s sadistic charmer. Even so, the climactic second act Tosca-Scarpia confrontation generates considerable heat, with Emmanuel Villaume’s conducting – impressive both in its coherent overview and its attention to finer detail – driving the score along with passion as well as panache.

Staff director Andrew Sinclair is in charge of the revival. It maintains solid dramatic standards, with some of the secondary roles – Donald Maxwell’s fussy Sacristan, Hubert Francis’s watchful spy Spoletta and Yuri Yurchuk’s constantly nervous political escapee Angelotti – particularly strong. But this is really Gheorghiu’s evening, and she does not disappoint.

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Angela Gheorghiu provides the centrepiece of this revival of Jonathan Kent’s staging, with the other leads not quite matching her