The 2018 Salzburg Easter Festival production of Puccini’s Tosca was directed by Michael Sturminger. The only Sturminger works I’ve seen before are his rather odd Mozart collaborations with John Malkovich; The Giacomo Variations and The Infernal Comedy so I really wasn’t sure what to expect. The production riffs off film noir and is updated to more or less the present. It opens with a shoot out between Angelotti and the police but that lasts only a few seconds and the first act and the first half of the second act are fairly conventional, bar Scarpia on an exercise bike as Act 2 opens. That said, it’s big and monochromatic and it does have a noir feel. It starts to get a bit more conceptual around the Scarpia/Tosca confrontation. It’s an interesting take on Scarpia; perhaps more bureaucrat than psychopath. The relationship between the two is well drawn and Anja Harteros does a really convincing job of her build up to killing Scarpia including a first class Vissi d’arte sung from some unusual positions. There’s a hint of what’s to come at the very end of the act when an “I’m not dead yet” Scarpia is seen crawling towards his phone.
The DVD version of Michael Sturminger’s Giacomo Variations was recorded at the Ronacker Theater in Vienna in 2011. With the exception of Florian Boesch in the baritone role it’s the same line up as the performance in Toronto that I reviewed earlier this year. Watching the DVD didn’t change my views about the piece or the performances materially. It still feels a bit undercooked and schematic. I did like the quote on the DVD box about Malkovich’s singing from the Kürier “closer to Tom Waits than to Fritz Wunderlich”. I wish I’d said that.
The Giacomo Variations is the latest collaboration between John Malkovich, Michael Sturminger, Martin Haselböck and, posthumously, W.A. Mozart. In that respect it has much in common with The Infernal Comedy. In other respects, not so much. It’s just wound up a six performance visit to Montreal and Toronto and last night I caught the final performance at the Elgin Theatre.
Michael Sturminger and John Malkovich are bringing their latest collaboration The Giacomo Variations to Toronto. I really liked their earlier piece, The Infernal Comedy and this new one seems to be similar in concept; blending Malkovich monologues with Mozart’s music.
The Giacomo Variations plays at the Elgin Theatre June 7th to 9th. Montrealers can catch it at the Place des Arts on the 4th and 5th.