The event that seemed poised to evoke the year’s biggest outpouring of Schadenfreude has finally transpired. The critical response to Angela Gheorghiu‘s first staged Tosca (Royal Opera, Covent Garden, June 13) could best be described as mixed. The diva’s vocal and visual glamour elicited kind words from all the critics, despite general reservations about a lack of dramatic heft in her lyric soprano.
Rupert Christiansen in The Telegraph was perhaps the least enchanted with Gheorghiu’s performance. “Coy, flirtatious and manipulative, she radiates kittenish petulance and sings with velvety allure. But of Tosca’s heart – of the peasant courage, cunning and command that Callas triumphantly emphasised – there was nothing. This Tosca has the soul of a phoney soubrette, and Gheorghiu’s singing was simply too poised, small-scale and self-conscious to carry any sort of emotional impact.” On the other hand, the Independent Online‘s Michael Church tells us that in Gheorghiu’s Act 2 aria, “all the vocal glory we have come to expect from her is fully on display.”
Tom Service in The Guardian called Gheorghiu’s Tosca “a light-voiced, pious heroine,” but noted that “. . . in the first act her jealousy is underplayed and you never really believe that this Tosca is capable of real venom or malice.” On the MusicOMH.com site, Dominic McHugh reported “Polite applause greeted a bland performance of ‘Vissi d’arte’. After this, however, she seemed to move into a higher gear. . . . Gheorghiu held the audience captive in the final minutes of this act, and provided more vocal thrills and a fuller tone in the last act…” McHugh voices the critical consensus when he concludes “this was not quite the debut that one had hoped for.” (Photo: Catherine Ashmore)