by Giacomo Puccini
Conductor: Julien Salemkour
Director: Carl Riha
Tosca: Micaela Carosi
Caravadossi: Fritz Burkhard
Scarpia: Gerd Grochowski
Ich bin eine Berlinerin! I'm in Berlin for four days visiting my old friend Nyla and her daughter Gita, who moved here about a year ago, and I'm totally enjoying this opportunity to finally explore this city that I had at the top of my list of places-to-see for a very long time. Yesterday was my first full day, and after a run through the Tiergarten to the Brandenburg Tor, we wasted no time organizing a killer cultural program.
My main goal was to hear the Berlin Philharmonic in their home, but the tickets for the three concerts they're having this week had been sold out on their Web site for weeks. Undaunted, yesterday morning Nyla called the box office and managed to grab me the very last ticket. It is for an all-Mozart program. How could I got wrong with that? Next, we got tickets for Tosca yesterday evening at the Staatsoper. That was wonderful news. Not only do I have a sentimental connection to it (It's the first opera I've ever seen), but it has remained one of my favorites and I'm very familiar with it, which was a good thing since the surtitles were in German!
So yesterday evening we met outside the opera house, and I was happily surprised to see the very eclectic and pretty casual crowd. Here opera going seems more like just another evening activity than a special event, and it is really comforting to see it so well integrated in Berliners' everyday life. There are three full-time operating opera houses in the city, and although the house was not quite full, the performance was still very well-attended. The inside was spacious and beautiful, ornate but not flashy. The production, which was from 1976, was definitely traditional, and this came as a surprise to me as Germans are known for updating the classics and not hesitating to shake things up a bit... or a lot.
As far as I'm concerned, as long as the singing is good, the rest is details. And the singing was wonderful last night, especially from the soprano who brought down the house after the famous aria "Vissi d'arte." She was the best Tosca I've seen so far, physically and musically. She was very Italian, fierce but pious, and her singing was very powerful and assured. Her Cavaradossi was mostly adequate, but no match for her. Scarpia was appropriately nasty, and the second act, which contains a heated confrontation with Tosca, was a real treat. All in all, it was a marvelous way to be introduced to Berlin's opera scene, and a marvelous way to spend my first real (as in "really awake") evening in the German capital.