By Nino Pantano
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn-born tenor Anthony Tolve was one of several singers who starred in Puccini’s masterpiece “Tosca” when it was presented at Riverside Church in Manhattan on Nov. 30 by the critically acclaimed Gateway Classical Music Society.
This upper Manhattan venue is one of many locations used by Gateway Classical Music Society since its founding by Music Director and Conductor Maestro Ida Angland in 2004. “Tosca” has thrilled audiences since its premiere in Rome in 1900.This performance was costumed and staged by Roberto Stivanello, despite the limitations of a small stage.
In the title role, soprano Rosa D'Imperio used her strong acting skills and sumptuous voice to make her interpretation an outstanding one. In the Act One duet with her lover Mario Cavaradossi, she was fiery and jealous with bursts of glory. In Act Two, confrontations with Baron Scarpia were chilling, culminating in her stabbing him to death. Her rendeition the famed aria “Vissi D'arte” was sung with richness of tone and admirable breath control.
Tenor Benjamin Sloman used his strong voice in a vigorous "Recondita Armonia" in Act One and a dreamy "E Lucevan Le Stelle" in the final act. His cries of “Vittoria! Vittoria!” in Act Two echoed throughout the hall. In duet and solo, his voice soared. Sloman was an ardent and vocally compelling Mario Cavaradossi and served Puccini well.
The Scarpia of this performance was baritone Martin Fisher, whose vocal dexterity in the Te Deum combined the piety and lust that sealed the fate of this heinous arch-villain at the hands of his “conquest.” In his confrontation scenes with Tosca, he used every ounce of his vocal reserve to attain his goal.
Brooklyn-born tenor Tolve, as Spoletta, made him a perfect henchman to Scarpia. He snapped to attention even after being slapped and thrown to the floor by his master. He became Chaplinesque with his trim mustache. What will he do without his master? After Tosca's leap, he crossed himself. Anthony Tolve is one of the finest comprimario singers on the current scene.
Steven Fredericks was a strong Angelelotti. His bass-baritone was properly fearful and desperate. He was also the ominous sounding jailer in the final act.
David Tillistrand was an amusing and clever Sacristan, and used his resourceful buffo sound in a memorable interpretation. Robust baritone Kevin Rockower made for a strong Sciarrone. The shepherd was hauntingly sung by mezzo soprano Keiko Ueda, and the chorus sang lustily in the “Te Deum.”
The 65 piece Gateway Orchestra, under the magical baton of Maestro Ida Angland, gave us a performance to treasure. From the ominous opening chords, the intense fury of the second act and the tone poem delicacy of the opening of the third act, the crashing chords of the finale remain indelible in memory.
Kudos also to concertmaster Gino Sambuco and off-stage conductor Michael Pilafian.