Leah Crocetto is the “Queen of the Night” in triumphant role debut as ‘Tosca’ in Pittsburgh

“Leah Crocetto is having an epic season. While performing at Glimmerglass in upstate New York late this summer, she got the call as a late replacement for the Washington National Opera’s “Aida,” which she squeezed in just prior to her triumphant role debut last night as Tosca with the Pittsburgh Opera. If that last minute opportunity to portray Verdi’s final great heroine interfered with her preparation for perhaps Puccini’s most dramatically demanding role, she never let it show. Well, maybe just a little, when she shook with visible relief while taking her curtain call, a reminder to the audience that her performance was nowhere near as easy as she had made it look. From her opening offstage cries to her final pledge to justify herself before God, every vocal inflection and gesture was deeply considered to convey the passion, piety, fear, and rage Tosca experiences moment to moment in this rapidly paced drama. She was magnificent.

Miss Crocetto’s instrument is simply huge. I got the sense in Act one that the she needed only the slightest tap on the accelerator to fill the Benedum Auditorium with her rich, full sound, and couldn’t wait to air it out in the second act. Then for good measure, late in the third act, just in case anyone thought all she brought were gorgeous big notes, she spun out a lovely, heartbreaking pianissimo that would have made Montserrat Caballé proud. I would love to hear her at the Met, where she debuted last season as Liù; her voice has the kind of weight and force that should really make an impact in that vast hall, and the kind of beauty that should fill seats …

But all is merely prelude to the entrance of the star of the evening. I always listen closely to Tosca’s offstage opening cries: has the diva found the most beautiful way to sing her lover’s name and merely repeated it three times? Or has she found a way to bring a different meaning, a building urgency, an early glimpse into her turbulent emotions, to each one of the iterations? A great Tosca must sings beautifully, yes, but also passionately and dramatically, meaningfully. Crocetto successfully established her musicianship before even setting foot on stage.

Rushing in, suspicions aroused because of a locked door and hushed voices, Crocetto took command of the stage, by turns imperious, coquettish, jealous, and devout. Having established her relationship with Cavaradossi, she must exit briefly to clear the stage for one of the great entrances in all of opera, the Baron Scarpia, the villain who will, in addition to catching the escaped prisoner, plot to bed Tosca and kill her lover …

Once she realized the horrible truth, having lost everything, Crocetto climbed to the edge of the tower, unleashed her final, powerful vow, and fearlessly hurled herself off, throwing in a half-twist for good measure. There was nothing tentative or fearful about her demise, just as there had been nothing tentative or fearful about Crocetto’s performance. I was really only reminded that tonight was her role debut by the genuine emotion she showed at the curtain call, in which Delevan very generously insisted she continue taking additional much-deserved individual bows before joining hands with the company to bask in the thunderous ovation from an appreciative audience.”

John S. Twinam – Operawire

“Leah Crocetto, heard here as Mimi in a “Boheme” in 2014, fills all the vocal requirements along with many of the histrionic demands. She has a gorgeous, opulent sound, with a vocal technique that allows her to scale back into sweet pianissimi, and spin long phrases with evenness of tone and no glitches between the notes … She came into her own in her Act 2 confrontation with the evil Baron Scarpia, articulating the words intelligibly, nailing the several sustained high Cs at the emotional climaxes with thrilling accuracy and stamina. Her “Vissi d’arte” aria, the central point of the act (and of the opera), was finely vocalized and psychologically right on. She showed the heroine’s nervousness by downing several glasses of wine at key moments (for which director Bruce deserves some credit as well). Her stabbing of Scarpia and realization of the implications of what she had done were extremely well achieved – again kudos to both actress and director in a scene that can look ridiculous if poorly acted out.”

Robert Croan – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Image: David Bachman Photography