Old timers will bang on about Zeffirelli's 1964 production of Tosca which survived for more than 40 years. I saw no less than five performances of it with Callas and Gobbi - those were the days when early 20 somethings like me were happy to sit in the "Gods" at Covent Garden for practically no money.....and magnificent it was of course.
The Royal Opera has got immense mileage out of the hugely successful 2006 Jonathan Kent production which replaced the enduring Zefirelli one. It has returned yet again with a series of a dozen performances with multiple casts between last night and March 3. You can take your pick but you would do well to take the Canadian pairing of Adrianne Pieczonka and Gerald Finley, together with Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja, the team that opened the run to enthusiastic acclaim yesterday evening. It is quite difficult for the "shabby little shocker" to fail to make its impact, but here you have uncompromised excellent singing which ensures that Covent Garden's high vocal standards are also maintained.
Pieczonka remains in superb fresh voice into the third decade of her distinguished career - she has clearly managed the stresses and strains of an international schedule with huge skill and thoughtfulness. She is good to go on pleasing us for many more years. And what to say about Gerald Finley singing his first Scarpia? The intelligence, and vocal quality and stamina, of this man gave us yet another masterclass. What a pleasure! And Calleja is Calleja, one of the most sought after tenors of the day with good reason.
Preceding that treat last night was an excellent hour at the V and A on Thursday with Emma Bell and David Butt Philip, part of the ongoing opera exhibition at the South Kensington museum. This was a program of Wagner and Beethoven by two of the UK's finest. Emma Bell was the winner of the Ferrier Prize in 1998 when I was a jury member. She has most certainly justified our faith as she is clearly in her prime 20 years later, but singing Wagner and Beethoven's Leonora rather than the Handel and Mozart she wowed us with all those years ago. And David Butt Philip is now launched on an international career which should take him to the very top. In due course, though to be sensible not quite yet, he will own Florestan, Lohengrin and Walther von Stolzing.
Today is more mundane - appointments with my accountant to review my return, and the dentist.......which will be the most painful do you think?