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New, Edgy 'Tosca' By Metropolitan Opera Draws Boos

Tosca dress rehearsal. i

Marcelo Alvarez, center, performs as Caravadossi alongside Karita Mattila, right, performing the title roll and George Gagnidze, left, performing as Scarpia during the final dress rehearsal of Giacomo Puccini's "Tosca," Thursday, Sept. 17, 2009 at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Mary Altaffer/AP Photo hide caption

itoggle caption Mary Altaffer/AP Photo
Tosca dress rehearsal.

Marcelo Alvarez, center, performs as Caravadossi alongside Karita Mattila, right, performing the title roll and George Gagnidze, left, performing as Scarpia during the final dress rehearsal of Giacomo Puccini's "Tosca," Thursday, Sept. 17, 2009 at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Mary Altaffer/AP Photo

Most serious opera lovers know what they like and like what they know. Many saw something they didn't like or care to know last night at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, a new interpretation of Tosca, Giacomo Puccini's beloved warhorse.

The Met staged a production of the opera as re-imagined by Swiss director Luc Bondy who evidently left out some of the traditional features opera goers associate with Tosca while creating post-modern sets, all of which proved too much for many in the audience.

As the New York Times reports:

When Mr. Bondy and the production team appeared on stage during curtain calls, the audience erupted in boos. If there were cheers among the jeers, they were drowned out.
The conductor James Levine and the cast, headed by the charismatic soprano Karita Mattila in the title role and the impassioned tenor Marcelo ??lvarez as her lover Mario Cavaradossi, all received enormous ovations.

True, the reaction of an audience to a new production, especially when the opera is a staple of the repertory, is only one indicator of a production's impact.

Still, the booing, if a little unfair, was understandable. Mr. Bondy's high-concept staging featured stark, spare, cold sets and dispensed entirely with many of the familiar theatrical touches that audiences count on in this repertory staple: Tosca placed no candles by the body of the villain Scarpia after murdering him, and she did not exactly leap to her death at the end. Mr. Bondy had scoured the work, it seemed, looking for every pretense to flesh out, literally, the eroticism of the lovers and the lecherous kinkiness of Scarpia.

At least there wasn't a riot like the one that famously greeted the Paris premier of Igor Stravinsky's Rite of Spring.

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