Tosca at the Royal Opera House
As one might expect, the splendour of Covent Garden’s Royal Opera House was filled with an audience of a certain vintage – and necessarily minted – for last night’s production of Jonathan Kent’s atmospheric staging of Giacomo Puccini’s perennially popular opera. The visually sumptuous stage design by the late Paul Brown matches the dazzling surroundings.
The opera premiered in 1900 in Rome, its backdrop the same city 100 years before, when it was under the threat of invasion by Napoleon. The place at this time was violently turbulent: there were two or three murders a day amongst a population of 150,000, over love or cards. It is against this fiery crucible that the passionate and tragic story takes place.
Painter Mario Cavaradossi, a liberal and intellectual, is in love with diva Floria Tosca. He comes to the aid of escaped political prisoner Cesare Angelotti, who takes refuge in the church Cavaradossi is painting in. Angelotti has been the victim of injustice at the hands of diabolical Chief of Police, Baron Scarpia. The lovers end up paying dearly for their attempts to aid the fugitive.
The music is as evocative as the poetic libretto. Alexander Joel’s conducting is precise and apt. When Scarpia makes his entrance on stage to a dastardly crescendo we are left in no doubt as to how we should feel about him. Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel reprises his role of Scarpia with suitable menace.
By contrast, Tosca is introduced by sweetly trilling her love’s name off stage. Latvian soprano Kristine Opolais in the titular role has the right combination of melodrama and steeliness, with an agile and lucid voice. This is showcased in her thrilling aria Vissi d’Arte. In Act Two, having come off stage, Tosca wears a heavy glittering dress which she has to drag behind her, all her finery merely adding to the pathos of what will come.
The third act sees Caravadossi supposedly fake an execution. The doomed lovers’ duet Amaro sol per te m’era il morire is moving, as they comfort each other under the stars with words of a loving future that will never come. Vittorio Grigolo as Caravadossi has a powerful voice, achieving almost unbelievable resonance and volume. He is also incredibly passionate, delivering a virtuoso performance.
Tosca is full of drama, excitement and fortissimo music and, due to the punchy plot and soaring orchestration, is a good introduction for those who are less familiar with opera.
Photos: Catherine Ashmore
Tosca is at the Royal Opera House from 24th May until 20th June 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.