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Final Thoughts on 'Tosca'

See my review of the second cast in Washington National Opera's production of Tosca:

Final Thoughts on Washington National Opera’s “Tosca” (The Washingtonian, September 26):

Puccini’s Tosca, the first production of the new Washington National Opera, now under the auspices of the Kennedy Center, was something of a dud. It would be unfair to expect that the merger with the Kennedy Center would instantly solve the struggling company’s problems, however, and the next three productions, all firmly under the more expert baton of WNO’s excellent new music director, Philippe Auguin, hold greater promise. The one encouraging note from this Tosca came in an unexpected place, the second-cast Cavaradossi of Gwyn Hughes Jones, heard late in the run on Friday night. The Welsh tenor made a brilliant Washington debut, singing this demanding role with far greater grace, beauty, and dramatic appeal than his first-cast counterpart.

Somewhat surprisingly, given the ease and power of the top of his voice, Hughes Jones started singing as a baritone. The placement of the voice is forward, producing a slightly nasal tone that was sometimes exacerbated by the decidedly Welsh color of some of Hughes Jones’s vowels as he sang in Italian. He sang Cavaradossi, a role that is often rendered with little nuance, with vigor and solidity but also with pleasing sensitivity. His rendition of the big aria, E lucevan le stelle, was melancholy and anguished in gestures both vocal and physical, with an exquisite decrescendo on one critical high note that was artful and affecting. He may not be quite the body type favored by more and more opera directors, in an opera world now so regrettably obsessed with film simulcast and camera closeups, but that is easily overlooked in an art form where vocal concerns should drive casting (but, sadly, often do not). [Continue reading]
Tim Smith, Patricia Racette shines in Washington National Opera's 'Tosca' (Baltimore Sun, September 15)

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