OWR production will have the added power of a pipe organ A RESOUNDING ‘TOSCA’


By GUY D’ASTOLFO

dastolfo@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Opera Western Reserve has waited years to stage “Tosca.”

And now that the symphonic pipe organ at Stambaugh has been restored to its former glory, it will.

The classic Puccini opera has a famous scene in which a pipe organ is played in a church. Stambaugh’s pipe organ is fresh off a two-year, $1.5 million rehab project that restored it to its original glory, and OWR director David Vosburgh is eager to use it.

“We are one of the few opera companies in the United States that can field a proper organ, and that’s one of the reason we are doing ‘Tosca,’” he said.

Alex Richardson, a tenor and a New Mexico native, has been tapped for the lead role of Cavaradossi, Tosca’s lover. He knows that OWR scheduled “Tosca” this year to take advantage of the pipe organ and said it will make the production special.

“Very few opera houses have pipe organs and, consequently, there are very few operas that require an organ as part of the orchestra,” Richardson told The Vindicator. “Most productions of ‘Tosca’ have to bring in a mediocre-sounding synthesizer for the church scene, but there’s so much other stuff going on that I think the audiences always sort of ‘forgive and forget’ about the organ. This time, they’re not going to forget the organ, that’s for sure!”

Richardson noted that his character will have fled the church before the scene begins. “So I’ll have to enjoy it from the wings.”

The organ will be played by Paula Kubik.

Friday’s production of “Tosca” will be the first time Richardson has sung the role of Cavaradossi, but he welcomes the challenge.

“It is definitely a large role, and it requires careful preparation in terms of the pacing of the role,” he said. “The first act has some beautiful lyric singing, especially during the Tosca and Cavaradossi duet in the church. The second act is where Cavaradossi has been captured by Scarpia and is being defiant and argumentative. This singing is more dramatic than the first act, but then in the third act when Cavaradossi assumes he’s about to die, he has his most introspective and delicate singing.

“Puccini really knew how to write for the voice though, and the first act is a great warm-up for the second act. But one has to be careful not to push during the second act so that you’re not tired for the more delicate singing in the third act.”

Richardson’s appearance in Youngstown is just part of a busy season for him.

In early October, he was the soloist at the Five Boroughs Music Festival in New York, at which every piece was a world premiere.

After that, he was the soloist in performances of “Carmina Burana” with Susquehanna Valley Chorale in Lewisburg, Pa.

His whirlwind pace will continue after “Tosca.”

He’ll head back to New York in December to sing the role of Count Vaudemont in Tchaikovsky’s “Iolanta.”

Then in January and February, Richardson will cover for the lead tenor role in Rufus Wainwright’s new opera “Prima Donna” with the New York City Opera, and will follow that by covering the title role of Werther at Washington National Opera.

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