Anna Netrebko should have felt huge stress on Saturday on the Metropolitan Opera when for the first time anywhere she sang the title function of Puccini’s “Tosca.” This is a touchstone of the soprano repertory. Ms. Netrebko, who over a few years has been transferring from the lighter, bel canto fare into weightier dramatic roles, might have chosen a much less outstanding stage to check out Tosca.
Ms. Netrebko knew what she was doing. She was a powerful Tosca. From her first entrance, Ms. Netrebko, one of many opera world’s real prima donnas, appeared each bit Puccini’s risky heroine, an acclaimed diva within the Rome of 1800, seized within the second with jealous suspicions over her lover, the painter Mario Cavaradossi. As she hurled accusations at Mario — Why was the church door locked? Who had been you whispering with? I heard a lady’s rustling skirt! — it took a few minutes for Ms. Netrebko’s voice to heat up totally. By the time Tosca, having pushed doubts apart, beguiles Mario right into a rendezvous at his villa that evening, Ms. Netrebko’s singing was plush, radiant and suffused with romantic craving.
Her Tosca is a lady used to getting her means. That she loves Mario so deeply rattles her. Having been reassured by Mario’s candy speak, Tosca, with a contact of mock despair, sings, “You know how to make me love you.” With melting sound and disarming vulnerability, Ms. Netrebko made this significant line appear particularly revealing, a second of helpless resignation.
It should have lent Ms. Netrebko confidence to have her husband, the Azerbaijan tenor Yusif Eyvazov, singing Mario. (The Met introduced this month that Marcelo Álvarez wouldn’t sing the function on this six-performance run, specifying no cause.) Mr. Eyvazov is a husky-bodied man with a voice to match. He sings with burly sound touched with a metallic glint. His massive high notes have stinging energy.
Ms. Netrebko was additionally lucky to have the compelling baritone Michael Volle as Scarpia, Rome’s tyrannical police chief. Though Scarpia is a sexual predator who lusts after Tosca, he deploys aristocratic airs to get his means. Mr. Volle deftly modulated his singing, one second spinning a phrase with seductive attract, the subsequent erupting with chilling energy. That Mr. Volle has become a major Wagnerian whose sound has a Germanic, darkish forged, missing typical Italianate heat, simply made him appear extra threatening, like an outsider.
At first, Tosca proved a simple mark for this cagey Scarpia. Though Ms. Netrebko may be an impetuous singer, I used to be struck proper by way of her efficiency by how she melded emotional depth and musical integrity. When she appeared on the suspicious fan, belonging to a lady, that Scarpia had discovered close to Mario’s easel, Ms. Netrebko sang Tosca’s anguished response as a sequence of clearly outlined melodic phrases. Her method really enhanced the music’s poignancy, lending Tosca some dignity at the same time as she suspects that Mario has deceived her.