There’s been more than a buzz about Amanda Echalaz for some time now. Her Tosca at Holland Park wowed even my most hardened colleagues and English National Opera’s decision to strike while the iron is hot and book her to sing both Liu (“Turandot”) and Tosca in the same season (2009/10) is tantamount to acknowledging that she’ll soon be unassailable. But there’s nothing like stepping into Angela Gheorghiu’s frocks and donning that imperious tiara for announcing your arrival in the big time. At the Royal Opera House last night Echalaz may have shown tentative signs of nerves – and in that regard the climactic phrases of “Vissi d’arte” will always find you wanting – but this Tosca on the very stage Callas once trod was blessed with a temperament and a completeness that, notwithstanding the nerves, was world class.
It’s a born Tosca voice – dusky of colour, keen of attack, with wonderful use of “cover” and palpitating portamento but fabulously open at the top. She nailed all those defiant top notes as surely as she nailed Bryn Terfel’s grubbily insinuating Scarpia. And what tremendous form he was on. Their scenes together were living proof that it takes two to tango in a dramatic confrontation and by the time she reached that moment in act three where she relives plunging the knife into the bigot’s black heart her fearless attack from high above to way below the stave was a phrase that will have caught everyone’s breath to the back row of the amphitheatre.
She’s giving her Amelia in Verdi’s “Un ballo in Maschera” next Tuesday. I can’t wait. But right now I hope Antonio Pappano has his eyes and ears on her – a talent this exceptional in such a dangerous “fach” needs careful nurturing.