High Voltage Tosca in Cologne

This dramatic production engaged with fine
vocals and an exhilarating choir. With his vocal gravitas, Samuel Youn as
Scarpia dominated the stage. The Te Deum made for one of the more
epically scaled opera scenes I witnessed this season. The director moved
the opera from Puccini’s originally intended 1800 to the end of WW II
in fascist Italy. It wasn’t too farfetched after Lucia
yesterday, so I didn’t mind. The idea of history repeating seemed

While the audience sits down, the priest is already preparing mass.
Choir members pray in the pews. Thilo Reinhardt’s staging already
invites intimate audience involvement. Bombs drop and explode around the
church. Once in awhile the stage would reverberate. Luke Stoker carried the
role of Catholic priest here with conviction and his singing kept me

In a flashy pink dress, Ingela Brimberg as Floria had a highly charged
voice and the required dramatic flair to enrich the thespian nature of her
character. Her vibrant voice phrased her passage with great urgency. In
“Vissi d’arte” she reached all her notes resonantly. Her
voice went the distance. Disappointing chemistry with Lance Ryan’s
Mario made their scenes only mildly sensual, especially in their love duet

Ms. Brimberg cast a bit of a shadow with her ardor. I expected Mr. Ryan
to give back more. I did not get carried away by his “Recondita
armonia”. In his interactions with Angelotti, he was also
overshadowed by the revolutionary zeal in Lucas Singer’s engrossing
voice. Still, I was quite taken by Mr. Ryan’s “E lucevan le
stelle” in Act III. His drama skills convinced.

The star of the evening, Youn intimidated as his powerfully
authoritarian Scarpia commanded the stage. His voice resonated with
grounding depth with a devious, even bitter, character. He made this role
his own. The opera is worth seeing just for him and that marvelous Te Deum
with banners and inflamed torches held by the superlative choir. A truly
exhilarating climax to Act I amplified by the contrast with the preceding

Claude Schnitzler made the Gurzenich Orchester Koln have moments of
brilliance with colorful woodwinds. The strings carried a great depth. He
propelled Puccini’s musical momentum forward as the singers kept
firing up their voices. Schnitzler balanced all the dynamic vocal forces
bringing out all the violence, power, and passion in the Italian
composer’s score.

The Chor of Oper Koln enriched the staging with an impressive sonority
dosed with a surging energy. Reinhardt’s incorporation of the
individual singers proved highly effective. Exhilarating to hear the
choir’s members engage so vigorously. They brought grandeur to this
production. The vocal intensity invigorated Paul Zoller’s simple set,
meant to elevate the vocal drama.

It was remarkable to see two similarly dislocated productions, one over
the top and uneven; the other properly balanced and vocally superb. Oper
Koln’s Tosca captivates and leaves an epic impression. Even
though it is not set in the time that Puccini ascribed, this Tosca
hit her notes very high.

David Pinedo

image_description=Ingela Brimberg as Tosca and Lance Ryan as Cavaradossi [Photo © Klaus Lefebvre]
product_title=High Voltage Tosca in Cologne
product_by=A review by David Pinedo
product_id=Above: Ingela Brimberg as Tosca and Lance Ryan as Cavaradossi [Photo © Klaus Lefebvre]