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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

No Roads Lead to Rome

Sir Bryn Terfel pulls out of the new Met Tosca.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Sir Bryn Terfel (center) has exited the Met's troubled new Tosca, opening Dec. 31.
Photo by Cory Weaver © 2010 The Metropolitan Opera.
First they lost their leading lady. Then the conductor. The Cavaradossi quit. And then the second conductor. Now, Sir Bryn Terfel has become the latest artist to pull out of the Metropolitan Opera's increasingly troubled new production of Puccini's Tosca.

Tosca has long been associated with performance difficulties. Puccini's fifth opera is a compressed, intense three acts, chronicling a series of violent events in the city of Rome. Past performances of this ever-popular work have included accidental onstage stabbings (in the second act) and problems with the title character's death scene, a plummet off the ramparts of the Castel di Sant'Angelo into the waters of the Tiber River. (Legends around the opera include one incident where the soprano's crash landing pad was replaced with a trampoline, giving the ending plenty of "bounce.")

Sir Bryn, who sang the role of Scarpia in the company's old production in the spring of 2010, has cited "vocal fatigue" as the reason for his cancellation. The Welsh bass-baritone is a familiar if infrequent  presence at the Met, having opened high-profile productions of Le Nozze di Figaro and Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen over the course of the past twenty years. He sang Scarpia in the second run of the Met's last production. His last appearance at the Met was as The Wanderer in the Robert Lepage production of Wagner's Siegfried, part of the company's most recent Ring production.

His replacement is Serbian baritone Željko Lučić, who is no stranger to singing a big premiere. Among the high-pressure high-profile appearances at the Met: the opening nights of the company's current productions of Rigoletto and Otello, where he sung the part of Iago. Mr. Lučić is slotted to sing the December 31 premiere of the new Tosca and to appear in the January run.

Sir Bryn's withdrawal leaves this new Tosca with none of its original cast. Sonya Yoncheva replaced the original Tosca, Kristine Opalais. Jonas Kaufmann was replaced by Vittorio Grigolo. Andris Nelsons was replace by James Levine. Last week, Mr. Levine, who is under investigation for inappropriate sexual conduct with minors, had all of his planned conducting dates cancelled. His replacement, announced last week, is the French conductor Emmanuel Villaume.

The casting of Mr. Lučić has also had an impact on the company's impending revival of Cavalleria Rusticana next month, playing on a double bill with Pagilacci. Mr. Lučić was originally contracted to sing the part of Alfio in the revival of the Mascagni opera. His replacement is George Gagnidze. Ironically, it was Mr. Gagnidze that played Scarpia in the first run of the Met's previous production of Tosca.

This new production of Tosca is by the veteran Metropolitan Opera director Sir David McVicar. It replaces the company's much-derided Luc Bondy staging of the Puccini opera, which is considered to be one of the biggest failures of Peter Gelb's time as general manager of the Met. As of this writing, Sir David is still attached to direct.

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.