'Lyric tenor Brian Jagde returns, fresh from operatic roles in S.F., Chicago'
Brian Jagde is “a revelation” as Cavaradossi in ‘Tosca’ at Lyric Opera of Chicago
. . . Jagde comes out on top in Lyric's Tosca . . . Nearly everyone in this first cast (starting February 27, the four main roles will be replaced with fresh voices) was excellent. The stand-out has to be the American tenor Brian Jagde, called in at the last minute to replace Mischa Didyk. His voice is a force, clarion-clear, muscly, with just those notes of honey and throatiness that seem to wrap up an orchestra’s sound and deliver the whole package to your front door, no signature needed . . . No signs of rushed preparation were in evidence on this opening night. Instead, with Jagde singing over the mix, it was some of the most pleasurable opera you’re likely to hear this year.
“A substitute at Lyric Opera’s Tosca is a revelation . . . On January 12, Lyric Opera general director Anthony Freud announced that Misha Didyk, the Ukrainian tenor scheduled for the leading role of Mario Cavaradossi in Puccini’s Tosca had dropped out of the production “for personal reasons.” Opening night was just 12 days away. But a replacement had been found: a rising young American tenor, Brian Jagde (it’s pronounced Jade), would be stepping in, making his Lyric debut. In the announcement, Freud thanked the Portland Opera for releasing Jagde from a conflicting engagement there . . .
Not to worry! In a revelation to an audience who hadn’t heard him before, Jagde and his Tosca, Russian soprano Tatiana Serjan, also in her Lyric Opera debut, delivered standout performances. (No surprise about Serjan for those who’d heard her in CSO’s concert version of Verdi’s Macbeth, conducted by Riccardo Muti last season.) The abrupt departure from plan resulted in an inspired pairing: two wonderful acting singers with the extraordinary voices that make for opera legend.”
Deanna Isaacs – Chicago Reader
“Puccini’s Tosca returned to Lyric Opera in a beautifully performed, new-to Chicago production that featured a wealth of important company debuts, including the evening’s conductor and all three principal singers (seen Jan. 24) . . . Serjan found an excellent stage partner in Brian Jagde’s handsome, clarion-toned Cavaradossi. The tenor won audience approval from the initial phrases of “Recondita armonia,” which were lyrically dispatched without the bellowing so often heard. Once fully warmed, Jagde produced an impressive flood of ringing sound that appeared to be produced well within his means without spreading under pressure above the staff. The sexual chemistry onstage with Serjan was palpable: this was a hot Tosca duo.”
Mark Thomas Ketterson – Opera News
“Puccini’s score for “Tosca” is chock-full of thrilling moments . . . In Lyric’s production, the less familiar music of Act I is enlightened by soprano Tatiana Serjan’s Tosca and tenor Brian Jagde’s Cavaradossi. They chase each other up and down scaffolding, play-fighting like children, and then suddenly confessing love that cannot be moved. Both are attractive, consummate actors, and bring a freshness to their portrayals . . . His voice’s chiaroscuro (the balance of lightness and darkness) and a razor-sharp focus awarded his Lyric debut with thunderous applause; Jagde seems the new Richard Tucker . . . Jagde alone is reason to attend.“
New City Stage
“When Cavaradossi enters and asks after the sacristan’s actions [“Che fai?”], an innocent moment of interrupted prayer leads to a flood of lyrical sentiment. Already from those initial spoken words Mr. Jagde creates an earnest, believable hero. Once he climbs a steep scaffold to survey his painted work thus far, Jagde’s performance of “Recondita armonia” [“Oh, hidden harmony”] establishes his as a significant tenor voice not only for Puccini but also for other major composers as well. When singing in this aria of the “azzurro … occhio” [“blue eyes”] in his painted creation, he compares these to the “occhio nero” [“black eyes”] of his dear Tosca. At his moment Jagde’s voice takes on an Italianate warmth emphasizing both the artist’s inspiration and the lover’s devotion. In the concluding soliloquy to art his voice at first blooms with absolute control over pitch and forte volume, then ends the aria with an effectively shaded diminuendo on “Tosca, sei tu!” [“Tosca, it is you!”] . . .
Here Jagde again delivered an impressive flow of lyricism in both dialogue and the duet. When he claims to have painted the Marchesa Attavanti without being observed by her, the lines “Non visto, la ritrassi” were sufficiently expressive to convince any Tosca of his faithfulness. Jagde’s sense of legato throughout the duet is a noticeable asset, so that the words “Floria, t’amo” blend naturally with the surrounding attributes in his recitation. When Tosca leaves for an engagement, Cavaradossi and Angelotti are able to devise a strategy for eventual escape from the menacing henchmen of the police chief. At the mention of the notorious official, Jagde colors the name Scarpia with a truly deprecating snarl . . .
When a sudden announcement declares that Napolean has won in the battle at Marengo, Cavaradossi sings his paean to liberty beginning with the famous “Vittoria! Vittoria!” The forte pitches are here exact, and Jagde sustains these for an exciting delivery . . .
In the second scene Cavaradossi writes his letter of farewell to Tosca and muses on their love, now almost vanished. The mood is appropriately wistful and tragic . . . Jagde’s performance of this piece shows a careful sense of transition in volume matching the import of individual lines of text. His conclusion on “tanto la vita” [“life so much”] emphasizes the bared irony of treasuring love in the final moments of life . . . In their duet both Serjan and Jagde bloom in unforced glory to celebrate the renewed possibility of their love. The ultimate tragedy of this duet is borne out by the firing squad’s mechanical execution of Cavaradossi . . . in this production the opportunity to hear singing in keeping with the spirit of the work, especially that of Mr. Jagde, remains its principal advantage.”
Salvatore Calomino – Opera Today
“Indeed, the Lyric audience rose to its feet at the end . . . to give thunderous applause to American tenor Brian Jagde. They were yelling “bravo” for Jagde’a dazzling, golden-voiced performance as Mario Cavaradossi, the artistic revolutionary.
Jagde soars as the lover of the beautiful diva Tosca . . .
The first-cast presentation of Tosca is so through-the-roof fantastic that I can’t imagine that the second will be better. For that reason, I recommend that opera lovers rush to see Tosca on stage right now.”
Betty Mohr – Le Bon Travel & Culture
“And he’s handsome too!” exclaimed one captivated female patron of Brian Jagde at intermission. The American tenor was pressed into service to make his Lyric debut two weeks ago . . .
With an ample voice, natural acting style and likable stage presence, Jagde made an impressive house debut. He delivered an ardent and impassioned “Recondita armonia,” clarion cries of “Vittoria!” in Act 2 and an impassioned “E lucevan e’ stelle.” The staging of Act 3 seemed a bit uncertain in places yet Jagde showed fine chemistry with Serjan and made the lovers’ plight credible and gripping.”
Lawrence A. Johnson – Chicago Classical Review
“. . . Jagde comes out on top in Lyric’s Tosca . . . Nearly everyone in this first cast (starting February 27, the four main roles will be replaced with fresh voices) was excellent. The stand-out has to be the American tenor Brian Jagde, called in at the last minute to replace Mischa Didyk. His voice is a force, clarion-clear, muscly, with just those notes of honey and throatiness that seem to wrap up an orchestra’s sound and deliver the whole package to your front door, no signature needed . . . No signs of rushed preparation were in evidence on this opening night. Instead, with Jagde singing over the mix, it was some of the most pleasurable opera you’re likely to hear this year.”
Dan Wang – Bachtrack.com
“Brian Jagde was outstanding as Cavaradossi. Some claim Jagde is a tenor to watch, but this performance reveals an accomplished performer who has arrived and can deliver this major role with musical and dramatic finesse. At full voice, his sound was appealing and intonation precise, and he lost none of that appeal in the softer passages. This was evident in Act I with his compelling delivery of “Recondita armonia”; his interpretation of the iconic “E lucevan le stelle” received well-earned acclaim in the penultimate scene.”
James L. Zychowicz – Seen and Heard International
“Two rising young stars, with major voices and even more major onstage chemistry, bring Cavaradossi and Tosca into brilliant focus. Model handsome tenor Brian Jagde inhabits his character with satisfying ease, and his delicious voice is everything we love about bel canto singing . . . Together these two young singers create an appealing and totally believable pair of passionate lovers . . . a major display of world-class operatic talent . . .”
Chicago Stage Review
“From the start, the dashing Brian Jagde (Mario) steals the audience’s hearts with his soulful aria reflection, Recondita armonia. Jagde and Tatiana Serjan (Tosca) perfectly illustrate artists and lovers. When Jagde paints another woman’s image as the Madonna, Serjan teasingly and forcefully tells him to correct it. They have the familiarity and playfulness of an established relationship. And still their sensuality fills the stage with passion. Their duet, Amaro sol per te m’era morire, has the sweet me-and-you-against-the-world innocence. The ending is unforgettable . . . In particular TOSCA boasts one of my favorite Puccini arias, Recondita armonia. And Jagde’s rendition is swoon-worthy.”
The Fourth Walsh
“Brian Jagde’s Cavaradossi is Serjan’s equal both vocally and dramatically. Making his Lyric debut, the American tenor declares his love for Tosca in his opening aria, unleashing his supple, warm-toned tenor in a passionate outpouring that set the audience cheering. Handsome and fit, he is a lover worthy of a diva’s devotion.”
Wynne Delacoma – Chicago Sun-Times
“She was handsomely matched, in terms of chemistry and spirit as well as vocal prowess, by American tenor Brian Jagde, also making his Lyric debut, as the painter and resistance activist Cavaradossi. His huge, supple sound, in the first act’s “Recondita armonia” and the last act’s “E lucevan le stelle,” flashed through auditorium as if from no effort at all. From the early scene of Cavaradossi’s light-hearted sparring with the suspicious Tosca to their final moments before his execution, Jagde shaped the mature and satisfying figure of a man genuinely in love and politically committed.”
Lawrence B. Johnson – Chicago on the aisle
“Brian Jagde for his part shines as the painter and revolutionary Cavaradossi. And when you put Jagde and Serjan together as the lovers you get that kind of stage chemistry that is sometimes so hopelessly lacking between leading tenors and sopranos. The standing ovations that greeted both at the end were well deserved.”
Hector Pascual Alvarez – Chicago Stage Standard
“American tenor Brian Jagde, was a replacement as Cavaradossi . . . You would never have known he was a replacement by the thunderous applause he received after each aria he belted out.”
Jess Smith – College News
“Jagde was strong out of the gate, unleashing a ringing, virile Act I aria, proudly proclaiming his love for Tosca for all the world to hear. His supple tenor sounded fresh yet tinged with steely strength, a vigorous compliment to Serjan’s blooming lyricism in Puccini’s soaring love duets . . . Tosca hardly qualifies as adventuresome repertoire, but when opera companies use it to introduce talent like Serjan, Jagde, and Jurowski, who’s to complain? With artists like these, everything old can be new again.”
Wynne Delacoma – Musical America
“Lyric Opera of Chicago opened a new production of this glorious tragedy at the Civic Opera House the evening of Saturday, Jan. 24, and first-nighters found themselves cheering at every turn—for Russian soprano Tatiana Serjan in the title role of the opera diva, and for American tenor Brian Jagde as the artist Cavaradosi, both making powerful Lyric debuts . . . Before Tosca ever gets on stage, Jagde lets us know in his first aria that the story is about the painter as much as about her . . . There are certainly reasons to see this opera. The cast, which will be in place through Feb. 5, is superb . . .”
Dorothy Andries – Makeitbetter.net
“An ardent, handsome Cavaradossi, Jagde easily mustered a flood of powerful, clarion tone . . .”
John von Rhein – Chicago Tribune
“Brian Jagde, the American tenor making his Lyric debut, no doubt the fan favorite by the end of the evening, has an ample, ringing voice . . .”
Adam Dahlgren – Splash Magazines (Chicago)
“Jagde has a big, bold voice of the “Domingo-tenor” kind, with darkish-gold undertones but a bright top, able really to nail the highest notes in the score without hesitation . . . he delivered some real thrills, which these days is far from guaranteed.”
We Left at the Interval
“A last minute replacement . . . as Cavaradossi, the young American tenor Brian Jagde summoned a handsome, clarion sound . . .”
John von Rhein – Opera Magazine
“. . . Brian Jagde as Cavaradossi proved the lone vocal success; his virile, powerful tenor directed positive attention. . .”
MJ Chen – The Chicago Maroon