Tosca's opening night for the 2009 season at the Met became a rather infamous event. Booing has been at the Met before but not quite that ferocious yet, especially not for opening night. For this particular telecast the production team did not bow.
I was not convinced by Karita Mattila's Tosca. I don't see an innocent highly catholic woman in her acting, nor does her voice have the sweet innocence of Tosca. She has a powerful and wonderful voice, but I don't think it matches the timbre for a Tosca. I have heard her in quite a few more powerful roles which she's been perfect for, so this was a disappointment.
Marcelo Alvarez's Mario was a much more successful role in this performance. Brave, confident, in love, and later heartbroken, sympathetic, and tragic. His voice was always there and never faltering. If anything, I found his performance a little on the melodramatic side.
George Gognidze's Scarpia is by far the most successful role in this performance. His voice is so sinister when he speaks, and his creepy smile throughout is enough to send chills through anyone's spines. It's only his second time at the Met apparently, but I hope that we see more of him not only at the Met but at other great opera houses around the world. He's a wonderful talent, and in the backstage interviews he's also quite a sweet man, like looking and listening to an entirely different person; the true sign of a talented actor.
The director Luc Bondy seems to be unaware of what Verismo theater is. It is realistic, meant to have three-dimensional characters with reasons for actions and gestures. He himself used the word "stupid" when describing the libretto to Tosca. To quote him: "It's nothing special. It's opera." Therefore by his own admission, he did not take Tosca seriously, nor its libretto, and perhaps not even opera as a whole. For this, I do not see why he decided to take this job. For money? Attention? In any case, it gives us no reason to take him seriously either. His full interview can be found here: [...]
Tosca is meant to be a religious woman, and one of the most powerful scenes is after killing Scarpia, she lays the candles by him and a cross on him before escaping - yet here she's lying on a couch fanning herself. Why? What character direction in her description or life makes her do that? Bondy continued to praise himself in what he thought was his own creativity.
Other examples of completely bizarre and over-dramatic direction is everywhere else. Tosca takes a sword to Mario's painting - why? She's jealous, but she's not meant to be so violent that she has a destructive disorder needing psychiatric help. Further, why would she do that and other characters act like that just didn't happen? Or when Scarpia appears in act two and is surrounded by women (one of whom with her mouth on his groin) why do the other men in the room act like nothing's happening? If it's to show to the audience that Scarpia's a creep - we didn't need something that extreme to get the point. In the end of Act 1, the congregation simply freezes in horror melodramatically while Scarpia takes the statue of the Virgin and kisses her. Again, why would he do this? The libretto and dictated actions are plenty to get the idea that he's a creep, and if Bondy thinks we are so stupid that we wouldn't understand that Scarpia's a terrible man, then why is he directing? A good director should equally know when to have a character move and gesture - and should also know when they shouldn't; composers must also know when to write notes, and when to write rests.
All in all, Gagnidze's and Alvarez's singing along with Colaneri's conducting were the only enjoyable aspects for this performance, but are not strong enough for me to recommend this DVD. I would probably not even get it as just a CD due to Mattila's unconvincing Tosca. Luc Bondy by his own admission does not like Tosca, yet he remains prideful in himself. If he doesn't respect us, Puccini, Giacossa, or Illica, then why should we respect him? Again, I am not being harsh on Luc Bondy if these are things he himself is saying - he even said he is angry with anyone with a disapproving opinion, and it is on camera and on the record. I can't take the performance seriously if the people involved don't take you seriously.