Puccini's Tosca - by the Pacific Opera Company - reviewed · 4.04.13 by colin newell
In my life I have seen around a dozen opera’s – many of them classical – some of them I fit into the category of Pop Opera (Like Phantom of the Opera – a modern piece with its feet firmly grounded in the 21st Century…) Puccini’s Tosca fits into that classic tragic opera niche – standard elements, straightforward story line – 2 and 1/2 hours and a body count.
Puccini’s tale of tyranny and love has thrilled audiences since its first appearance in 1900. With all the ingredients for classic opera; – lust, jealousy, murder, suicide, love triangles, plot twists, and a memorable and somewhat by the book score.
Many hard nosed purists would rate Tosca as the “beginners opera” – a simple story line, all the basic elements that make up a classic tragedy – something that most people could follow – even if it is in Italian.
I had the good fortune (Saturday afternoon) in sitting in on a casual rehearsal as well as the Tuesday dress rehearsal – there is nothing more entertaining (for me anyway) of seeing (and hearing) the contextual displacement of a story set in 1900 being performed full voice in 501 Levi jeans and T-shirts (on the tenor and the soprano!) and getting to stand stage left a few feet away from one of the principal singers as they belt it out.
But what of the story?
Political repression, revolution, art and deception unfold, as Tosca – played by the very talented Joni Henson – racked with jealousy over an imagined lover from a canvas, she struggles for comfort and reassurance that is fleeting. Painter Mario Cavaradossi (played by tenor Luc Robert) goes head to head with the sadistic and lascivious police chief Scarpia (played with wicked aplomb by Luxembourg resident and singer David John Pike), who only has eyes of conquest for Tosca – who betrays her knowledge in exchange for Cavaradossi’s life… which turns out to be an additional twist and deception. And so on.
There are opportunities for a more complex narrative and story arc in Puccini’s Tosca – but that would defeat the purpose of keeping it simple. It is, after all, true to the formula of tragic opera with no additional decoration or even the bare smidgen of humor.
The cast is well matched and believable – no one voice rises much above another. If anything, Joni (as the soprano) had fire power to spare but held back just enough.
Impressions: Andrea and I did the dress rehearsal. Consequently, it is a lively evening with a large contingent of opera clubs (middle school students, aspiring musicians, University students) making upwards of 75% of the enthusiastic audience. Sold out in fact.
For ticket holders for the main event this week and weekend, I say – strap yourself in for some good old fashioned classic tragic opera that will please newcomers to this old entertainment genre and those veterans of this music form returning for some twists and surprises.