As with Rigoletto earlier this season, the SF Opera is experimenting with a double header format for Tosca, which opened last night. Namely, two casts will alternate nightly for twelve performances of the Puccini favorite. Now, you don't want to offend anyone's sensibility by calling them cast one and cast two, they're like Tracy Jordan and Jenna Maroney, two equally good teams of consummate professionals. In the title role, we have two divas, Patricia Racette and Angela Gheorghiu, two sumptuous voices with plenty of Puccini expertise. Though Gheorghiu does have a reputation for being--how should we say this?--a bit high maintenance,she sure she can sing a mean Muffintop. [Little did we know when we wrote this that the diva would leave the Opening Night performance yesterday after Act I due to some medical reasons. Quoting the program notes: "when it comes to Angela Gheorghiu, the high-profile diva who has a flair for making news, big-impact drama is more or less routine." Indeed.]

The rest of the cast mixes the experienced with the up-and-coming: Mark Delavan, last seen as a regal Wotan in the Ring Cycle, coming back as one of the evil Scarpias, and Adler fellow and rising star Brian Jagde as one of the Cavadarossis. Adler Fellows are talented young singers in the early phase of their careers who receive a year long grant from the SF Opera to typically appear in supporting roles and gain main stage experience while honing their craft covering the big names. But Brian Jagde has paid his dues and has already made this role debut earlier this summer on a major national stage in Santa Fe, where he received some rave reviews. To wit: "the promising young American tenor Brian Jagde...walk[s] away with the vocal and dramatic gold as an uncommonly ardent Cavaradossi, nailing his arias with robust vocalism." He'll leave the Adler program after one last concert with the other fellows, and will take on the next phase of his career, singing Hoffmann in Beijing with Francesca Zambello, Tosca in Berlin with former SF maestro Donald Runnicles, and Carmen's Don Jose in Lyon. We caught up with him last week during Tosca rehearsals.