“…First of all let me say that Carol Vaness will go down on my list as one of the greatest living Tosca’s on record. This horribly underrecorded artist is captured in this role at the height of her vocal powers. Vaness confirms that American singers have and continue to be just as exellent if not superior to their European counterparts. Vaness possesses a bright and silvery lirico spinto soprano with that famous Italian “ping.” Her voice abounds in beauty, pathos and power. Her voice is by no means huge, but rather dramatically piercing and very flexible which is what is needed for this role. She understands this role well, and uses her musicality to intelligently convey the varying emotions and demands that this role puts upon a singer. Her portrayal is tightly but exquisitly controlled. Never once does she resort to screeting or screaming but uses her voice to act the part with applomb. The most thrilling aspect of her portrayal are her unbelievable high notes. Tosca is one of the most high and difficult of all soprano roles. But Tosca’s high tessitura poses no threats to this Diva who hurles high notes into the stratosphere as if they were silver javelins without any strain whatsoever!!!!! Vaness has built into her high notes this subtle quivery, nervous vibrato which I find immensely gratifying. In the final Act when she sings “O Scarpia, Avanti a Dio!!!! I was completely mesmerized. Her’s is the most impressive I have ever heard and is even superior to La Divina herself, YES FOLKS IT’S THAT POWERFUL. She doesn’t just sing this last line, but she holds the note for at least 7 seconds so that the final chords of the music can envelope her voice.”
She is also the boldest actor I’ve yet seen on an opera stage! She is huge; I don’t think its possible to overact this particular role. The show opens this friday, 4/21. Good seats still available. Backstage pictures to come.
Review from the Orlando Sentinel:
Special to the Sentinel
April 23, 2006
Although Central Florida has come to rely on the Orlando Opera for quality productions featuring superior singers, the company’s guest performers usually have reputations that place them outside the first rank of international stars.
The Orlando Opera’s production of Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca, which premiered Friday night at the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre, is thus an exception. It features one of the biggest names in recent memory to appear on stage with the local company.
Carol Vaness, whose three-decade career includes leading roles in major houses on both sides of the Atlantic, more than lived up to her billing and reputation as the title heroine. Yet even with her name recognition, Vaness was only one of several outstanding voices heard in this production.
In fact, if forced to rank the cast, baritone Grant Youngblood in the role of Scarpia, the head of the secret police, was the star of the evening, if only by the breadth of a few hairs. His creation of a marvelously evil character through his resonant voice and realistic acting made him the dramatic catalyst of this melodrama.
Vaness, as the opera diva trapped in Scarpia’s web, played well against Youngblood. She was believably distraught and agitated as her lover, the painter Mario Cavaradossi, was tortured by Scarpia’s henchmen. She also sang a nicely shaped “Vissi d’arte,” Puccini’s paean to art and love, in the second act. Her voice retains a rich and strong middle register, although one can hear a small wobble creeping into her top notes.
Stephen Mark Brown rounded out the trio of excellent leads. As Cavaradossi, he was less of a vocal presence in the middle act but contributed two well-received arias in the first and third acts.
The high point of the evening was the riveting confrontation among the three principals in the second act. Robert Swedberg, general director of the Orlando Opera who also served as stage director for this production, kept things moving quickly up to Tosca’s murder of Scarpia. This was followed by the brief third act, where Scarpia’s double-cross leads to the deaths of the two lovers.
The three leads were surrounded by a fine group of supporting singers. Christopher Holloway, as Sciarrone, was a useful underling for defining Scarpia’s character in the second act, and Craig Irvin ably filled the modest but key role of Cesare Angelotti. Jason Budd provided a welcome bit of comic relief as the Sacristan. All were in top form vocally.
In the pit, conductor Andreas Mitisek made his Orlando debut with this production. He honed the Orlando Philharmonic to a razor-sharp edge, which made the orchestra virtually another character in the drama.
Add in some nice sets on loan from the Seattle Opera, and there’s very little to criticize and much to praise in the Orlando Opera’s final production of a very good season. Fans will want to catch this Tosca, because the 2006-07 season doesn’t begin for another six months.
Scott Warfield is an assistant professor of music history at the University of Central Florida.