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Tosca review at Royal Opera House, London – ‘a confident staging’

Adrianne Pieczonka and Joseph Calleja in Tosca at Royal Opera House, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton Adrianne Pieczonka and Joseph Calleja in Tosca at Royal Opera House, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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Another opening night, another sad memorial. The first performance of this revival of Jonathan Kent’s Tosca, first seen in 2006, was dedicated to the memory of Paul Brown, whose designs graced seven Royal Opera productions in all, and much else besides.

Twelve years on it remains an entirely viable show, with the cast and conductor rising confidently to many of the vocal and dramatic challenges set by Puccini and his librettists in this perennially popular thriller.

With her lavish, clean-edged soprano well deployed in the title-role, Adrianne Pieczonka achieves distinction in the vocal side of her performance, though she could do with more dramatic individuality.

Baritone Gerald Finley, her fellow Canadian, is one of those artists whose intelligence and savoir-faire help him convince in just about any role he attempts; here he presents the psychological menace of the suave, sinister Scarpia, even if one feels that this is not an ideal vocal match.

Assuredly bringing a true and highly distinctive Latinate quality to his vocalism, Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja sings Cavaradossi with a combination of passion and refinement. His acting is more than adequate, even if there’s little sense of sexual magnetism between him and Pieczonka’s Tosca.

Secondary roles are well up to the Royal Opera’s regular standards. With his resonant bass and keen diction, Simon Shibambu, a member of the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme, commands attention as Angelotti. Jeremy White is the skilful Sacristan, while Aled Hall makes a memorable creation out of Scarpia’s fearful henchman, Spoletta. Jai Sai Mehta sings the Shepherd Boy with considerable expertise.

Once again the chorus and orchestra distinguish themselves, and though Dan Ettinger’s conducting has a few mannerisms he generally manages to maintain a commendable degree of tension.

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Solid vocal and dramatic standards mark the first of three casts in this Puccini revival