As Scarpia the baritone Claudio Sgura gave an account that avoided some of the leering and smirking that sometimes accompanies portrayals of this arch-villain. His Scarpia was a portrait of aristocratic evil. As he walked slowly back and forth before Cavaradossi, held prisoner in his office, he was clearly a man who held all the cards and didn’t have to strain to intimidate. Vocally, as he revealed in the Te Deum and elsewhere, he was less impressive, with his tone tending to get lost in a baritonal fog of low sounds, often drowned out by the orchestra.
The young Italian tenor Riccardo Massi brought a commanding physical presence and full-bodied, accurate and even-toned voice to the role of the artist Cavaradossi. But he tended to hold back emotionally. While there was nothing wrong vocally with his E lucevan le stelle, it was too pristine, with none of the desperate edge of man facing death. It seemed more like a performance at a vocal recital than at an opera.
The sets, originally designed for Sarasota Opera, were clearly too small for the vast stage at the Kravis Center, requiring black backdrops at both ends of the stage to reach the wings. They provided no surprises to anyone familiar with the opera, except for the starkly dramatic battlements of the Castel Sant’Angelo, with a winged gargoyle and moonlit sky.
Stage direction by Massimo Gasparon was traditional and naturalistic, with no attention-grabbing stunts to hype the dramatics. The Te Deum, in which Scarpia growls his plans for Tosca as a church service gets underway, was the theatrical show-stopper it was intended to be, with a procession of church officials and candle-bearing altar boys, wreathed in incense smoke.
“Please be advised that in Act 3 there are loud gunshots,” warned a sign on the supertitle screen during the final intermission. While presumably posted in deference to some of the weak hearts in the audience, the sign should have warned of a more irritating noise: As the guard walked along the ledge of the Castel Sant’Angelo, going slowly up and down a few steps, they creaked like a staircase in a haunted house, and the guard went back and forth throughout most of the last act, filling the hall with squeaks and creaks.
All the smaller roles were well-handled. Matteo Peirone provided subtle, finely calibrated comic relief as the Sacristan. As the escaped prisoner Angelotti, the bass Matthew Burns revealed a voice of a power and quality that should bring him bigger roles. As the spy Spoletta, the tenor Evanivaldo Correa Serrano, brought a desperate earnestness to his voice as he cringed before his master, Scarpia. And as the shepherd boy, the soprano Greta Ball brought a pure singing voice to the atmospheric Act 3 opening.