[Met Performance] CID:282000
Tosca {689} Metropolitan Opera House: 09/23/1985.

(Opening Night {101}
Bruce Crawford, General Manager

Metropolitan Opera House
September 23, 1985
Opening Night {101}

Bruce Crawford, General Manager

TOSCA {689}

Tosca...................Montserrat Caballé
Cavaradossi.............Luciano Pavarotti
Scarpia.................Cornell MacNeil
Sacristan...............Italo Tajo
Spoletta................Andrea Velis
Angelotti...............James Courtney
Sciarrone...............Russell Christopher
Shepherd................Melissa Fogarty
Jailer..................Philip Booth

Conductor...............Carlo Felice Cillario

Production..............Franco Zeffirelli
Stage Director..........David Kneuss
Set designer............Franco Zeffirelli
Costume designer........Peter J. Hall
Lighting designer.......Gil Wechsler

Tosca received fourteen performances this season.

[Bruce Crawford's title was General Manager Designate from 8/1/1985 through 1/30/1986;
he became General Manager on 2/1/1986.]

Review of Michael Redmond in the Newark Star-Ledger:

With all the "haut monde" glitter and glamour that one finds almost nowhere else these days, the Metropolitan Opera opened its 102nd season with a performance of Puccini's "Tosca" starring Montserrat Caballe and Luciano Pavarotti, with Carlo Felice Cillario conducting.

It was an event as much as a performance, and the stuff of the legend of which the Met is made.

For weeks now, the most important question on the opera scene has been, 'Will Caballe actually sing?" It is a measure of her stature as "the last of the prima donnas," as Caballe has been called, that this engagement could so dominate everybody's attention. It remains to be said that yes, she did sing, and gloriously.

The secondary question has been. "How will Pavarotti sound?" The tenor's appearances at the Met have grown increasingly rare in recent seasons, and some reports from abroad have not been particularly flattering.

Yet the tenor sounded as magnificent as ever Monday night, with a performance of "E lucevan le stelle" as fine as this reviewer has ever heard, or is likely to. It came close to eclipsing Caballe's "Vissi d'arte," which is some feat.

Together, in Act III especially, Caballe and Pavarotti delivered the kind of singing that gives one some idea of what the Golden Age was all about. Electrifying, incandescent, heart-on-the-sleeve singing, with nothing held back.

Cornell MacNeil. The distinguished baritone who sang Scarpia, more than held his own in such stellar company. His growth in the role was obvious since last season, when his performance was severely criticized as more appropriate to Bela Lugosi than to an operatic artist.

Vocally, MacNeil sounded polished and secure, although the heavier parts of the role, such as the "Va, Tosca," remain beyond his resources.

Caballe never ceases to amaze. It's doubtful that any soprano with less sumptuous gifts could get away with her inimitable stage business.

For instance, in Act II: Having decided to submit to Scarpia's advances, Caballe's Tosca removes her earrings and begins unbuttoning the sleeves of her gown. Then having decided to murder Scarpia, she rebuttons the sleeves and picks up the earrings. Just like that.

Later in the scene, while searching for the safe-conduct Tosca needs in order to save herself and Cavaradossi, Caballe sent papers and books flying off Scarpia's desk, and knocked over his chair. What next, one had to wonder-the desk itself? The bookcases?

But nothing could top Caballe's handling of Tosca's flamingly melodramatic suicide. Other sopranos rush to the parapet, stage center, and leap to their deaths. Not Caballe. With tremendous dignity, she gathered up her skirts and exited, rather mysteriously, stage right. Apparently, this diva simply does not leap from parapets in any circumstances.

Caballe is one soprano that can make Pavarotti look like Laurence Olivier, which is saying something. But no one really cares. With a voice like hers, the audience is more than willing to accept anything in the way of characterization. That's precisely why Caballe is a prima donna and a prima donna of the old school. The voice is everything.

However, there was some superb acting to be seen on the Met stage. Italo Tajo was a "buffo" joy as the Sacristan. and Andrea Velis was the man you loved to hate as the despicable Spoletta. These character singers are among the best to be seen anywhere in opera today.

The performance was conducted by a musician who seemed to have Puccini in his blood. Maestro Cillario was never less than impressive, and at his best, the orchestra soared with unforgettable power and vibrancy. He seemed to know exactly where to spin out the line, exactly where to come down on the beat. Yet it was a performance that seldom drew attention to the pit. Like the best of the Italians, Cillario is a singer's conductor.

The production was the Franco Zeffirelli spectacular that received its premiere last season. And it must be said that familiarity, in this case could not possibly breed contempt. This is certainly one of the most stunning productions in a house famous for stunning productions. It presents what seems to be half the population of Rome for the Te Deum, and the Castel Sant' Angelo set, which rises to reveal Cavaradossi in his cell, still drew gasps.

It was argued, last season, that Zeffirelli's production overwhelms the opera and its cast. Maybe so - but not when you have the likes of Caballe and Pavarotti singing.

Production photos of Tosca by James Heffernan/Metropolitan Opera.

Added Index Entries for Subjects and Names

Back to short citation(s).