WNO Tosca: 2nd Cast

The Washington National Opera’s eight-show run of Tosca (through May 25) included two dates with Latonia Moore in the title role and Robert Watson as Cavaradossi, the second being yesterday’s Sunday matinee. This is not a comparison, as I didn’t hear the other performances, but to the extent that these two artists would be deemed a “second cast,” they were very impressive indeed.  

While both were making their WNO debuts, they are not aspiring new talent; Moore has sung the title roles for both Aida and Madame Butterfly at the Met and in other major houses, while Watson has given both Cavaradossi and the title role in Les Contes d’Hoffmann at the Deutsche Oper Berlin. It’s difficult, of course, for singers to try to slot in seamlessly in productions set up on others. Many times yesterday, Watson’s dramatic focus was diluted somewhat by the necessity of watching the conductor. Moore seemed slightly more comfortable onstage even with stock acting. Her voice is a well-modulated instrument, with unusual power in the lower register, and her high notes bloomed wonderfully. It’s no surprise that she has a burgeoning career.

Watson is more of a heldentenor, already with a certain amount of leather in the sound. He had trumpet-like force when needed, but the color was certainly not Italianate in the gentle, lyrical passages. And do we really need the arms-spread-wide gesture on every climactic high note?  Still, I predict this sturdy young artist is going to give the world some noteworthy Tannheusers and Othellos soon.

Everything else has already been covered earlier by Mark Rudio; my own impressions of the rest are that conductor Speranza Scappucci had a good grasp of the score and attained a near-perfect balance at the beginning of Act II, where both the offstage cantata and the onstage singing must compete, a very difficult problem. Sadly, in the rest of the act she let the orchestra swamp the singers too often. Alan Held as Scarpia was a little lethargic, the acting not really reflecting the scheming and cunning portrayed in the music. In the smaller roles, the Oscar goes to David Cangelosi (as Spoletta), who was the most alive onstage – perhaps too much so, as the contrast with the principals was not to their advantage.

Photo: Latonia Moore as Tosca. Photo by Scott Suchman.