By Nino Pantano
For Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Ricardo Tamura, born in Sao Paolo, Brazil, of Japanese and Syrian parentage, had his career as a scientist all set up for him except for the fact that he also loved to sing. Licia Albanese heard him sing several years ago and was so impressed by his remarkable tenor that she took him under her wing. Thanks to the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation and the Gerda Lissner Foundation, his career took off like the rocket he might have engineered as a scientist. Tamura has had a successful career in Europe, especially in Germany and at the outdoor Arena di Verona in Italy. His singing of our National Anthem, “Nessun Dorma” from Turandot and “Vesti La Giubba” from Pagliacci were the highlights of the Albanese-Puccini concerts here.
Thanks to Stephen De Maio, president of the Gerda Lissner Foundation and artistic director of the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation, a group of us attended Tamura’s debut at the Metropolitan Opera on Tuesday, Dec. 17, as Mario Cavaradossi in Puccini’s thriller Tosca on a cold snowy evening. Since this new production from only four years ago has elicited both praise and desultory comments, I chose to accentuate the positive and comment only on the performers.
The premiere of Tosca was in the Teatro Costanzi in Rome, Italy in 1900. On March 4, 1913, Tosca was performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) with Arturo Toscanini conducting and the great Enrico Caruso as Cavaradossi, Olive Fremstad as Tosca and Antonio Scotti as the evil Scarpia. The Met made BAM part of its national tour until 1937.
The conductor for the current performance, Marco Armiliato gave an eloquent reading of the score. At the beginning of the first act, Ricardo Tamura sang “Recondita Armonia” with radiant tone, a true lirico-spinto tenor with dramatic power and precision ending with a resounding “Tosca, sei tu.” Tamura sang passionately in the jealousy duet “Qual occhio al mondo” and he and his Tosca, the acclaimed American soprano Sondra Radvanovsky had very good chemistry onstage. (No pun)
In the second act Tamura’s long held triumphant cries of “Vittoria, vittoria” brilliantly soared through the house. He shows remarkable breath control and mastery of the Italian style.
The final act offered us a ravishingly sung “E luceven le stelle” with caressing style, soaring power and exquisite dimuendos, earning Tamura a prolonged ovation.
Tamura’s “O dolci mani” duet with Tosca just before his execution in Act Three was sung with both sweetness and abandon. There were cheers and bravos when Tamura took his solo bow at the end of the opera.
Sondra Radvanovsky was a wonderful Tosca. Her first act jealousy Duet “Qual occhio al mondo” displayed Tosca’s vulnerability.
In Act Two her “Vissi d’arte” (before she stabs Scarpia) in which she asks God, “Why me? I live for art, I live for love?” was a model for us all and earned her an ovation. Ms. Radvanovsky’s voice has power, a ravishing pianissimo and a unique golden quality. She and Tamura’s final duet “O dolci mani” was exquisitely sung.
Radvanovsky fought Scarpia’s henchmen like a tiger before her suicide leap. It was a joy to meet and greet her backstage afterward, alive and well and looking radiant.
The Scarpia of George Gagnidze was clad in black leather, looking every inch a Mafioso wannabe rather than the Chief of Police in Rome. Vocally his lusty baritone had the proper heft in the “Te Deum” procession and his confrontations with the defiant Tosca were stirring.
Basso Richard Bernstein was a properly desperate and resonant Angelotti, John Del Carlo was a booming but not too basso buffo Sacristan, tenor Eduardo Valdes, a strong-voiced Spoletta, Jeffrey Wells an imposing Sciarrone, Thatcher Pitkoff sang sweetly as the Shepherd and dark-voiced David Crawford was the Jailer.
During the prior intermission we were happy and surprised to see our friends Gaston Muselli and his cousin Maria, from Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, both dressed to the nines (Gaston designed his own sparkling scarf). What better way to spend an evening than at the opera? I thought of Nicholas Cage and Cher in "Moonstruck” which was filmed in the Cammareri Bakery on Henry Street in Carroll Gardens and at the Metropolitan Opera (external shots) as well.
I saw sopranos Elaine Malbin (born in Brooklyn) and Tampa born Elinor Ross a great Tosca of the past, and conductor Maestro Eve Queler in the audience and despite inclement weather, Albanese, also a legendary Tosca of the past at age 100-plus, came to see her former student Tamura. I recalled 1973, when Judy and I were invited backstage at the Met to visit Brooklyn’s great tenor from Borough Park, Richard Tucker (1913-75) after a performance as Canio in Pagliacci at the request of his beloved wife Sara. After the performance, Ricardo’s charming wife Dagmar greeted us backstage along with a huge crowd of well-wishers. We all had wine and toasted the triumphant tenor of the evening, Ricardo Tamura.