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Seen and Heard international Opera Review

Puccini,   Tosca:  Greek National Opera, Olympia Theater, Conductor,Lukas Karytinos, 20 and 30 March 2007 (BM)


It was yet another run of sold-out performances for GNO’s new artistic director, Stefanos Lazaridis, who must be basking in the well-deserved success of his first season. Nevertheless, this time the full house can probably be attributed to the outstanding cast and the popularity of the work itself, since the production was directed by a very predictable Nikos Petropoulos who also designed the costumes and sets. The costumes were somehow not all that different from those created for the very same opera at GNO just a few years ago, although this time he had chosen what seems to be one of his preferred modes for opera settings, Italian cinema and the Mussolini era: in this case Rome under German occupation in 1944. To be wholly fair, this is a plausible way to get the opera’s message across, referring as iit did to a period which meant a great deal to almost everyone in the audience. The only thing at all spurious about this version was perhaps the ending, (billed as a “surprise”!) when Tosca disappears through a gate of glaring lights, which I suspect would have drawn boos from an Italian audience!

The ensemble featured excellent Ukrainian tenor Misha Didyk as Cavaradossi, and above all the truly stunning Latvian soprano Kristine Opolais, whose voice and acting are incredibly mature and impressive at the tender age of 28. Together, they made a rather more Baltic than Italian-looking pair (but fortunately no one decided she would need to cover her blond hair with a wig to fit the opening jealousy scene). Had it not been for her, the opera might as well have been called “Scarpia” on the nights that Peter Sidhom was singing, thanks to the keen character study he made of his role. In addition to his masterful voice, which never bellows and barks (as some baritones tend to in this part) his chief of police is a middle-aged gentlemen with impeccable manners and an almost fatherly bearing. The virtually imperceptible danger lurking behind this mask - until it falls - is infinitely more effective than obvious coarse brutality. Stephen Kechulius was perhaps rather less convincing in the same role, but in good voice nonetheless. Of the accurately rehearsed supporting roles, Petros Magoulas stood out as the Sacristan with his smooth bass-baritone and inspired acting. Conductor Lukas Karytinos, former GNO artistic director, was clearly running a tight ship, coaxing a gratifying sound from an orchestra that knows him well, although at times the volume was such that the soloists were prompted to shout and there were some wobbly violins to be heard towards the end.


Bettina Mara

P.S. Might I recommend a trip to Riga to see Opolais in Queen of Spades at the Riga Opera Festival this summer? By all accounts it is a fabulous production! 

Pictures © Stefanos 2007


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