About us / Contact

The Classical Music Network

New York

Europe : Paris, Londn, Zurich, Geneva, Strasbourg, Bruxelles, Gent
America : New York, San Francisco, Montreal                       WORLD

Your email :



Recondi(structed) Armonia

New York
Baruch College Performing Arts Center
04/11/2023 -  & April 13, 15, 16, 19, 21, 23, 2023
Giacomo Puccini Tosca (Co-Adapted by Shadi G. & Jacob Ashworth) (Newly Arranged by Daniel Schlosberg)
Anush Avetisyan (Tosca), Gustavo Feulien (Scarpia), Chad Kranak (Cavaradossi), Christopher Nazarian (Sacristan, Spoletta, Junior), Joseph Lodato (Angelotti, Shepherd), Masih Rahmati (Undercover Boss, Anonymous Man), Reza Mirjalil (Sciarrone)
Amir Farsi (Flute), Nicolee Kuester (Horn), Clyde Daley (Trumpet), Clare Monfredo, Maddy Fayette, Nagyeom Jang (Cellos), Milad Daniari (Bass), Jessica Osborne (Piano), Jacob Ashworth (Conductor/Music Director)
Reid Thompson (Scenic Design), Torange Yeghiazarian (Cultural Consultant), Shadi G. (Director)

A. Avetisyan/Shadi G. (© Julian Elizah Martinez)

Inspiration is an awakening, a quickening of all man’s faculties.
Giacomo Puccini

There comes a time in history when the man who dares to say that two and two make four is punished with death.
Albert Camus

Unlike the fiercely nationalistic Giuseppe Verdi, Giacomo Puccini’s politics were opaque. Like all Italians of the 19th Century, he was probably against the Church, but as the scion from three generations of Luccan church composers, he probably had mixed feelings. And while Tosca gave intimations of political feelings, Puccini was above all a man of the theater.

Not a couriers of social messages.

This, though, hardly stopped the Heartbeat Opera from their customary operatic revolutionary productions last night with the Tosca sung in Italian, but with obvious daring. Supposedly, it shows a group of singers producing Tosca before a totalitarian regime steps in to stop them. But this was incidental to the opera production itself. The result was dominantly Puccini, yes. But partly transformation of Grand Guignol melodrama into a broadcast of freedom, feminism, and–in the last act–a bold picture of the religion/politico horror of today.

Mind you, it took two fairly innocuous acts to achieve Heartbeat Opera’s customary iconoclasm. Director Shadi G., herself from Teheran, ran a tightly-molded drama, with political intimations rarely apparent.

Before the celebrated opening five chords, a “political” message was flashed on the wall–all too briefly–giving the dicta of what could and could not be staged. (Example: One could not show the death of a religious figure.)

Between each act, we had rip‑roaring version of the Chilean revolutionary anthem ¡El pueblo unido jamás será vencido! (“The people united will never be defeated.”) First for the band, and later with the cast, pleading for the audience to join them. Then, more subtly, sinister figures ominous appearing off stage or in the corridor or behind the scenery, not blatant but menacing, ominous. Their purpose was not apparent until Act Three, with the background-picture of Teheran, including a Farsi graffiti on a jutting pipe. (I wish I knew what it said.)

Fourth (spoiler alert), Tosca does not jump off the parapet, operatic style. Instead, she turns into a crucial hero carrying the flag of freedom.

Shadi G. could have given more blazing (and obviously vociferous) allegiances throughout the truncated version of the opera. Instead, she waited for the intervals and the last act to make her points. Scarpia could have been a Mullah, Tosca could have tossed away a veil, or picked up the Holy Koran before stabbing Scarpia, the political figures could have come out of the shadows into the action itself.

But hey! This wasn’t my conception of a political Tosca. This was the Heartbeat Opera version, more Puccini the dramatist than Puccini the freedom fighter.

Of course one could never compare this Tosca with the Met. We had no massive choral Te Deum in the most spectacular melodrama since Monteverdi. (Methinks Puccini used part of the Te Deum from his grandfather, who is still revered in Lucca.).

Music Director Jacob Ashworth had a competent eight‑piece darkly‑colored band without violins or violas. But Puccini was an exceptional orchestrator, and one badly missed the chorus of trumpets, trombones and percussion. During some of Tosca’s arias, the thin accompaniment was perfectly suitable. But Tosca is not an “aria‑opera”, and in the scenes of torture, near‑rape, patriotic arias, the melodrama was turned into country‑band mellow drama.

The relatively small stage at Baruch Performing Arts center was packed with icons. A huge–and intimidating–background of Jesus on the Cross for Act One, a table of nutritional goodies for Scarpia’s tortures and shivery pleas with Tosca for Act Two. And the aforesaid Teheran background with the usual parapet for the Third Act.

The voices were uniformly professional for the unfolding drama. Anush Avetisyan made for an entrancing Tosca, her voice a bit weak for the opening but gathering volume and texture for the second act melodrama, with a terrific “Vissi d’arte” lying on the ground. The last scene was truly emotional, and one could have used this over‑the‑top emotion for the rest of the opera.

G. Feulien/C. Kranak (© Julian Elizah Martinez)

The most splendid vocal quality came from Chad Kranak’s Cavaradossi, a verismo tenor with special challenges (sitting blindfolded on the ground warbling “E lucevan le stele”.) The voice was virile, the movements confident, a highly attractive Cavaradossi for an actress like Tosca.

One had mixed feelings about Gustavo Feulien’s Scarpia. He is the sadistic villain defining the opera. Mr. Feulien was kind of nice. His music breathes viciousness, defined in that frightening “Va Tosca! Nel tuo cor s’annida”, where the “Va” must be spat out. Mr. Feulien played Scarpia with a psychological nuance. The voice was powerful. The character was unpleasant, not Iago‑style wicked.

Still, the Heartbeat Opera version of Tosca was (and I hate to use this word) an enjoyable one. We could have had two kinds of brutality–Puccini’s original and Shadi G.’s modern courage. Both of them last night were fodder for the brain and the ear. Neither of them offered that all important visceral agitation.

Harry Rolnick



Copyright ©ConcertoNet.com