On Oct. 30, “all of Rome trembled”, as did the entire campus of St. Joseph University in W. Hartford when three singers with brontosaur-sized vocal chords blew the roof off of Hoffman Auditorium when they appeared in an exciting performance of Puccini’s melodramatic “Tosca”, as presented by Conn. Concert Opera and conducted by legendary maestro Doris Lang Kosloff. Since 1992, this energetic company has been presenting opera in concert with quality singers. This practice works in Mozart, but just doesn’t fly with Puccini. There is too much violence and far too many props needed to make this piece real theater, and, thankfully, Kosloff and director/mezzo Sondra Kelly broke “tradition” and fully costumed everyone and supplied all props necessary in Act 2! Only the sets were missing, so the diva’s jump to her death obviously went for nothing. Who cared?? With singing of this caliber, this reviewer felt like he was back in the glory days of the Met circa 1965-1975!
In the title role, Diane Kalinowski is, and looked, younger than the norm (her wig perhaps?), and thus, a little more guttural thrust from the chest register a la Tebaldi would have been welcome. That said, her voice is gorgeous, her high Bs and Cs (she has many) were gigantic bullseyes, her acting was sensitive, and her beautiful long pianissimo ending “Vissi d’arte” instantly showed this critic that she is a major talent in the making!
As Mario, Polynesian tenor Tau Pupua also unleashed spectacular top notes, though his instrument has a darker, baritonal quality more like Vickers than the sunny Neopolitan sound of a Corelli. Magnificent as they both were, they were ever so slightly eclipsed by the imposing Scarpia of Nelson Martinez. A Pavarotti-sized man, he is exactly what the opera world needs now — a true-blue full Verdian baritone like Robert Merrill amongst an industry overly saturated with young, slim, lyric Mozart baritones with Ford Modeling Agency looks and gym bodies. People in downtown Hartford with windows open could hear him soaring above the excellent chorus in the Act 1 “Te Deum”. Lets hope Ms. Kosloff brings all three back soon! Local bass Laurentiu Rotaru served as deluxe casting as the Sacristan and Jailer.
By Larry Kellum. Originally published on TownTimes.com