FGO’s second-cast “Tosca” by no means second best 

By David Fleshler

Jouvanca Jean-Baptiste and Diego Torre in FGO's "Tosca." Photo: Lorne Grandison.

Jouvanca Jean-Baptiste and Diego Torre in FGO’s “Tosca.” Photo: Lorne Grandison.

An outstanding second cast took the stage Sunday at the Arsht Center in Miami in Florida Grand Opera’s production of Puccini’s Tosca.

Jouvanca Jean-Baptiste made an entrancing Tosca, bringing a glossy, agile soprano and sure sense of drama to the role. If the FGO Young Artist lacked the intensity and vocal weight of the previous night’s Tosca, Kara Shay Thomson, she brought her own youthful spirit and interpretive feel to the performance.

In the second act, one of the most powerful in all of opera, she achieved much the same level of suspense as Thomson in her sparring with the police chief Scarpia, played in all performances by the baritone Todd Thomas. Jean-Baptiste’s cries of horror at the torture of her lover Cavaradossi lost none of their drama for being rendered in her smooth, effortless voice, and her “Vissi d’arte” was silken in texture and poignant.

As the painter Cavaradossi, Diego Torre surpassed the first cast’s tenor, Rafael Davila. His “Recondita armonia” came off with polished lyricism and incisive high notes, a pristine performance that expressed the happiness that would be shattered in a few hours. “E lucevan le stelle,” is such a familiar number that it may be tempting to just blast it out, nail the high notes and enjoy the applause. But Torre did much more with it, bringing great expressivity to the anguished low tones in which he begins to remember his time with Tosca, allowing one high note to melt away and holding another remarkably long without stretching the music out of shape.

Florida Grand Opera’s Tosca runs through Saturday at the Arsht Center in Miami and April 10 and 12 at the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale. Jouvanca Jean-Baptiste and Diego Torre will sing the roles of Tosca and Cavaradossi Wednesday and Saturday with Torre also performing April 12. fgo.org; 800-741-1010.

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Mon Mar 31, 2014
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