Saturday, October 10, 2015

REVIEW: Puccini’s Tosca by Opera Hong Kong

HK Cultural Centre Grand Theatre, Friday October 9

Ah… Tosca again… it is one of those operas that I sigh when I hear that it is being offered, yet I go and come out not regretting it. I suppose it is like one of those CDs that one put on to relax and not to think too much.

This Tosca by the Opera Hong Kong is “special” because it has the tenors (Warren Mok, Dai Yuqiang and Wei Song) getting the top billing in what they try to market as “The China’s Three Tenors”. In 2 of the 5 performances of the opera, one can actually see the 3 tenors take on different acts in an evening, a bargain offer I was most happy to decline. Instead, I chose the 3rd night when Dai Yuqiang performed purely on the basis that I have never seen him performed live before.

The production directed by Enrico Castiglione was not offensive. It was simple and effective to deliver context wherein the drama can happen. In the title role of Tosca, soprano He Hui is why I would recommend anybody to go and see this. Her dark, rich and focused voice has the intensity to drive every big moment to its full, while ensuring that gentle passages are laced with sensitive lyricism. Her big moment in “Vissi d’arte” came across with lustrous top notes and affecting nuanced diminuendo. 

As for Dai Yuqiang, I was a bit disappointed. All throughout the opera, he was play-acting and not committed to the role; from adjusting his ruffled sleeves so that they can beautifully appear outside his painting jacket (the point of having a jacket for painting is so that ones sleeves and shirt don’t get stained), to stumbling two steps left and two steps right woodenly during his all-important aria “E lucevan le stelle”. Most importantly, however; his singing was lazy. While his high notes are open, solid and well-projected, the rest of his vocal spectrum were poorly supported, not nuanced, peculiarly phrased and accented… enough said.

Sebastian Catana’s Scarpia was a pleasure to behold. In the scheme of everyone’s singing and acting, he was able to find the right balance, solid and shaded baritone behind quiet malevolence and balanced with outburst of pure malice.

Gianluca Martinenghi, conducting the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra was engaging and affecting.

Opera Hong Kong
Oct. 7 - 11 2015 Grand Theatre, Hong Kong Cultural Centre



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