* Notes *
Yesterday's matinée performance of Tosca ended Berkeley Opera's 2008 season. The main conceit of the production, directed by Barbara Heroux, was an upstage pentagon screen on which images were projected. The images alternated between representing the physical scene and showing the internal state of the characters. The latter were invariably paintings from famous Italians, including Titian, Tintoretto, and Caravaggio. The costumes were attractive, especially Tosca's Act II red gown, which was flattering and well-made.
The orchestra sounded fairly good under Jonathan Khuner, though there were a few times when the singers were just a hair ahead of the players. The singing and acting from Michael Crozier (Jailer), Steven Hoffmann (Angelotti), and Nicolas Aliaga (Sciarrone) were all fine. Bass John Bischoff (Sacristan) was particularly good, not only was he funny, his voice is quite nice. José Hernández was a touch quiet as Spoletta, though his voice is not unpleasant. John Minàgro (Scarpia) lacked heft, and at times one could not hear the actual words he was singing, though the notes were discernable.
Tenor Kevin Courtemanche did not make for a dashing Cavaradossi, but his voice was beautifully lucid. His Act III aria "E lucevan le stelle" was the strongest moment of the performance. As for Tosca herself, soprano Jillian Khuner sounded both heartbreaking and lovely during "Vissi d'arte." However, she had a rather wide vibrato and did occasionally sound painfully shrill.
* Tattling *
For the most part, the audience was well-behaved, no watch alarms were able to sound because of the two intermissions, and no cellular phones rang. There was much cellophane unwrapped during the beginning of Act II. However, I was bullied out of my seat for the last act. I was over in the left side section, in the last row, and it was rather splendid as there were only 4 or 5 people in these seats, so everyone was nicely spread out. Also, the supertitles were half-obscured, so I was able to ignore them with ease.
An obese woman had been sitting near the back, three seats in on the left. She was not comfortable as she had a cough and did not exactly fit in her seat. In fact, a person next to her tried to make more room by trading seats with a smaller companion. Just before Act III, the woman in question was speaking to her companion and pointed at me, then sat directly in front of me in the left side section, as the seats here had no arms. I could tell that she was not going to be considerate, so I moved to the last row in the middle section. The woman moved into the seat I had been in, moved the chairs around, and unwrapped cough drops.