We were at the opera again last night, this time for Tosca. It is arguably one of the best known of Puccini and of all operas. Synopsis
The story is well known: promises by the ruling class that is not kept even when it was a written one. Sounds familiar!!! Though Tosca was not really as gullible as others in the present era: ooops, no UK politics or NHS please.
Last night’s Tosca was in fact invited to be president; yes President of Lithuania.
National heroine: Violeta Urmana. Photograph: David Levene
In the early months of 2004, the soprano Violeta Urmana was asked to stand as a presidential candidate in her native Lithuania.
The Lithuanian government was in the process of impeaching President Rolandas Paksas following allegations of links to organised crime. "I said, 'Are you kidding? I don't belong to a party, either social democrat or liberal.' 'Oh, that's better,' they said. 'But what about my singing?' 'You can sing, probably one or two times a year.' My husband couldn't sleep at night - he thought I shouldn't do it - but just for one day, I was thinking, 'Oh, for Lithuania, maybe I should.'"
In Lithuania, Urmana is a national heroine, the local girl who has made it on to the world stage. "Maybe I'm an example, something not associated with these dirty politicians. They all have dirt on their hands."
…….. A remarkable artist, Urmana possesses a huge, sexy voice capable of scything through the thickest orchestral textures and of sustaining the most rapt of pianissimos. She has become associated with some of the most complex and difficult roles in opera: Lady Macbeth, the self-lacerating heroine of Ponchieli's La Gioconda, the chameleon-like Kundry in Wagner's Parsifal. Does she have a particular fascination for these formidable women? "The first thing is whether the role fits my voice," she replies. "This kind of repertoire has strong characters, normally."
It may indeed something we can learn from modern management. The set was nothing to write home about. Nothing to match Franco Zeffirelli’s production that survived 25 years. Urmana saved the day with her wonderful singing.
The New Yorker: If I’m not mistaken, someone shouted “Vergogna!”—“Shame!”—when the production team shuffled onstage to face the firing squad. I doubt that mass revulsion is part of Gelb’s marketing plan, but a scandal has its uses: the Met made the evening news.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Sorry, no NHS please.