Review: Tosca @ SDH
ChiÈ™inÄƒu National Opera and Philharmonic Orchestra: Tosca
Monday 25th March 2013
Ellen Kent has created some very popular productions of operas and ballets over the last few years.
It must be the touring schedule, which goes all over the UK and beyond, allowing people the chance to witness some great art forms near to them. Not everyone can make it to London or even Cardiff to see the opera. Some of the great selling points of Kent's productions are the international stars, the craftsmanship of the costumes and sets and even the use of live animals.
Tosca is one of Puccini's best operas, if not his masterpiece. The gripping nature of the story and the stupendous nature of the music makes for compelling viewing. Its length is no longer than most Hollywood blockbusters. It's divided into three acts allowing for two small breaks in-between. Some operas can go on for far too long. But like with La BohÃ¨me, Tosca never overstays her welcome. In fact, by the end of the work she makes this very clear.
It's 1800 in Rome. Tosca, a great opera singer in the story, is madly in love with Cavaradossi, a painter. One day, he helps harbour Angelotti, a radical who has escaped prison. This brings forth Scarpia, the Chief of Police and a nasty piece of work at that. He causes a great deal of torment for all involved, in his pursuit of finding and killing Angelotti and claiming Tosca as his own and of course, to bed her...
We see Cavaradossi tortured, Tosca agreeing to give in to Scarpia by confessing where the fugitive is and then the two of them spending a night together. He also says that Cavaradossi must have a mock execution. Tosca is pleased they can go off with her love, but what to do with Scarpia? She finds a knife just casually place on a table and stabs him. All the while shouting, "Embrace the kiss of Tosca!"
The last act is of betrayal and suicide. Tosca's famous leap of death was more a slight jump here. I found it amusing that in previous productions the posters stated that the, "leap of death was not happening in Swansea." There is the famous story of Maria Callas who was perhaps the best Tosca ever, did the fall in one production and landed on a trampoline, which caused her to propel back up, viable to audience watching.
Maria Tonina was Tosca incarnate. Sorin Lupu an attentive Cavaradossi and Vladimir Dragos a definitive Scarpia. He oozed the wickedness of the character. The music for him conveys his evil and lusty ways. A wonderful moment in the first act for horns and tubular bells, as he speaks of his love for Tosca. The Te Deum of the first act is bold and stirring in its delivery as Scarpia plots his devil's plans.
The two famous arias, Vissi D'Arte and E Lucevan Le Stelle are a joy to here live. The former is my firm favourite out of the two, as Tosca sings of her love of art. The latter is for Cavaradossi writing a letter, realising he has to die and his love of Tosca. Even a solo for boy soprano was used as a young shopper who opens the first act. He seems quite scared and sung very faintly. But it was pleasant all the same.
The sets appear adjustable for the tour and had some impressive elements to them. Each act of Tosca is set in an actual location in Rome. These being the church of Sant'Andrea della Valle, Palazzo Farnese and Castel Sant'Angelo Prison. Each of these is well worth a visit if you are planning a trip to Rome. I was also disappointed that the golden eagle wasn't in the production, as it said on the poster.
I would say try and see this, but since it's touring, it's now no longer a possibility for Cardiff. But plan ahead if it comes back. It's well worth seeing.
IMAGE: Opera & Ballet International