Tosca at the Royal Opera House
Opera embodies emotional power as art and encourages a wealth of musical imagination – none more so than Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca. An instant hit from the day of its 1900 premiere, Puccini’s iconic melodrama remains universally admired today. With a stellar vocal line-up (headlined by Amanda Echalaz as Tosca) alongside Jonathan Kent’s expert direction, Paul Brown’s inspired visual design and the ROH Orchestra conducted by Emmanuel Villaume, the Royal Opera House staged a magical evening of inspiring Italian music and drama.
Tosca has a deep narrative strength as engaging as a blockbuster movie (*contains spoilers). The story unfolds in the midst of a stormy revolution and political volatility in Rome 1800. Angelotti (Yuriy Yurchuk), a political fugitive enlists the help of a painter Mario Cavaradossi (Najmiddin Mavlyanov) to escape the clutches of the cruel Chief of Police Baron Scarpia (Roberto Frontali). A whirlwind of actions and consequences ensue between Tosca, Cavaradossi and Scarpia, building towards a dark destiny for all.
Uzbekistani tenor Mavlyanov made his Royal Opera debut tonight as Cavaradossi with no obvious show of nerves: his first aria Recondita Armonia was cool and composed, and his E lucevan le stelle in the final chapter displayed an impressive balance of tender warmth and burning passion. However, Frontali’s interpretation of the menacing Scarpia fell flat as the choral and orchestral forces were asked to save the grandeur of the Act 1 Finale, but his villainous affair with Tosca did revive his performance later on.
A character of many faces, experienced soprano Echalaz embraced the melodramatic personality of Tosca in sublime fashion: from the opening jealousy-induced comedy and flirtatious dialogue with Cavaradossi to the breathtakingly poignant aria Vissi d’arte and graceful second act duets. Echalaz’s acting was as compelling as her voice, as she sealed Tosca’s tragic fate with a dignified leap from the walls of the Castel Sant’Angelo.
Credit should also be given to the ROH Orchestra. Under the baton of Villaume, the orchestra provided a sensitive and equally passionate musical backdrop, from the blazing opening chords, the thunderous string unison force that marked the death of Scarpia, the graceful woodwind colours, the notable clarinet melody heartening Cavaradossi’s final act romanza and the strident forte brass in the catastrophic conclusion. The mix of rousing drama, inevitable tragedy and an opulent musical orchestration full of exquisite melodies, rich harmonies and textures left the capacity audience moved by Puccini’s operatic achievement.
Tosca is on at the Royal Opera House from 9th January until 5th February 2016, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch the trailer for Tosca here: