Tosca's role needs fire

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By Melissa Riedel-Espinoza

The popularity of Giacomo Puccini’s opera, “Tosca” is almost unparalleled.  
Most opera lovers have seen it multiple times and opera greats such as Maria Callas, Renata Tebaldi and Placido Domingo performed the leading roles.
It has a reputation for being an accident waiting to happen because of the intense action onstage, but the Santa Fe Opera’s production Saturday was accident-free and the audience seemed to enjoy Puccini’s masterpiece.
Yannis Thavoris, scene and costume designer, created a perfect backdrop for this work. Every detail is exquisite, from the candlesticks to the paintings — one of which isn’t merely on the stage — it is the stage. Attention to detail is necessary for a piece of this magnitude and Thavoris made an opulent set with incredible visual impact for this production.
Baron Scarpia is the quintessential operatic villain and Raymond Aceto is fantastic as this completely unredeemable character.
Aceto’s voice is enjoyably dark and he uses it well. His presence is striking. It is difficult to look at other characters while Aceto is onstage. Every expression on his face is perfect and it’s easy to forget that he’s acting because of his precise timing.
Brian Jagde, who sings Cavaradossi and will also sing a role in Strauss’ “Arabella,” is the replacement for Andrew Richards, unable to perform due to illness.
Cavaradossi is an easy character to like. He’s romantic, he loves his woman and helps out his friend and he’s a talented artist.
He’s a nice guy in every way, just as a leading man should be. Jagde has a substantial tenor voice and he fills out and makes the most of every note. Along with impeccable placement and resonance, Jagde’s voice has a sweetness to it, which makes it a great fit for this role.
Tosca is a difficult role to sing, especially as it leads inevitably to comparisons with Callas and Tebaldi. Amanda Echalaz does a beautiful job with the music.
Her voice is extremely resonant, filling the hall even when her back is to the audience. Tosca needs fire, though, and in that area, Echalaz’ performance is lacking.
There are glimpses of Echalaz’ dramatic capabilities; she has the ability to make her Tosca everything she needs to be, but the audience needs more passion.
The orchestra, under the baton of Maestro Frédéric Chaslin, plays delightfully. Puccini wrote the score in a way that makes the orchestra sing right along with the onstage performers.
Listen carefully, even when there’s no one singing. The orchestra is never just background noise, to be talked over when no one is singing. They are telling an integral part of the story.
Tosca is a heavy piece with no happy ending and no redemption for the characters. However, the music is sublime and the singing gorgeous. The lecture before the show, given by Oliver Prezant, is informative, engaging and not to be missed. This opera is not a light choice for an evening’s entertainment, but for an opportunity to hear Italian opera’s best, “Tosca” is a perfect choice.