Metropolitan Opera, 5 January 2000

There were lots of stars in the NYC sky tonight. Unfortunately, none of them were at the Metropolitan Opera. On paper, the cast looked pretty good:


Richard Leech
Carol Vaness
James Morris
Jeffrey Wells
David Evitts

Daniel Oren

Although I walked in knowing I wouldn't get a great Tosca, I figured that I'd get a pretty good one. I was certainly mistaken.

I spent the entire first act wondering why I was so bored. After all, Leech was a loving Cavalier, and Vaness was a flirtatious and jealous opera singer-and both sang rather well, and with a degree of subtlety. While Jeffrey Wells was a fine Angelotti, I could scarcely hear David Evitts' Sacristan. The act did not even start to become interesting before the electric entrance of James Morris. I would equate his Scarpia with his Iago, much nastier than he usually plays, but not nearly nasty enough to match a Gobbi, a London, a Warren, or even a Pons in his prime.

Act II of Tosca is usually one of the most exciting acts in Opera, at least, for me. While it was much more exciting than the first act, that's not saying very much. I then began to notice that the conducting was slow:  Scarpia's first aria had no real nastiness, although nasty words were appearing on the surtitle screen before me-and he was singing at such a leisurely pace. There were some moments of tension in the interchange between Tosca and Scarpia while Mario was being tortured, but things got back to slow and boring during "Vissi d'arte", making poor Carol Vaness sound like a "kvetch"-and that is very hard to do with this aria.

Suffice it to say that we left the Metropolitan after the second act, heaving a sigh of relief that our seats were in the Family Circle and not any lower down.

Was anyone to blame for this travesty of a Tosca?  I think so, and it was not the singers! They certainly tried to do their job. In my estimation, it is the conductor, Daniel Oren, a winner of the Herbert von Karajan Competition. who made his Met début conducting the same opera in 1995 and has, apparently, not been back since then. He has also conducted this opera at the Vienna State Opera and the San Francisco Opera, and has made a specialty of Puccini and Verdi at various opera houses throughout the world, including his native Israel. While his conducting may be appropriate for an amble through a sleepy town's bland summer season, it just will not do in a major opera center like New York City. I will certainly not have to be reminded to make other plans if he is ever conducting another opera I wish to attend.

* * * *

-- Howard in Brooklyn   

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Copyright:  © 2000 Howard Levin

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