“Tosca” is one of the most performed productions in many opera repertoires. Its enduring appeal is that it will always sell the house. There are purists who dismiss the opera as shallow, but underneath the surface Puccini’s compact masterpiece has intensity and such dramatic power you are drawn in with gathering pace.
It is true, Puccini does not make the audience work to understand the action, but this is the appeal of composers such as him and Verdi; they wrote for the people and not for purists and analysts of music. They wanted their work to be immediately accessible. This version is directed by Viktor Nagy, with set designs by Tamás Vayer and conducted by Gergely Kesselyák.
There is no doubt that “Tosca” is intense and the action is swift. It contains all the drama of the finest tragedies: death, violent jealousy, corruption, hatred and of course love, both twisted and pure. There are no winners in “Tosca”; it is the ultimate tragedy as there is no victory to be had by anyone.
What is so wonderful about the opera is it is very resistant to modernisation. It is very much an opera set in Italy circa 1800. To modernise Tosca would be to rip away its essence, and it is Italian right to the centre, with religious processions and political themes running through its heart.
The pace of this three-act opera is fast; the drama unfolds relentlessly, gathering the power of a tornado sweeping away everything in its path with full destructive force, as the music grows heavier, darker like a foreboding storm.
Puccini’s use of the orchestral score to accompany the characters’ personalities and even the mention of the names is perfection. He uses leitmotifs in a Wagnerian way with the three central figures of Scarpia, Tosca and Cavaradossi, who have their own sequence of orchestral notes.
If “Tosca” is the only opera seen in a lifetime, it is at once the true beginners’ and opera lovers’ opera.
Many of the criticisms of “Tosca” stem from the two-dimensional trio of characters, but there are so many hidden depths running through these complex personalities. Scarpia is the most two-dimensional as he is often portrayed as the epitome of evil, but I have seen Scarpia performed with true depth and humanity; almost worshipping Floria Tosca as if she were a heavenly being, not from this cruel world.
More than most characters in opera, Floria Tosca as the epicentre of this tornado should command the stage before she even sings a note. Too often “Tosca” can be disappointing if the lead soprano isn’t a true diva herself.
If you ever have the chance to see Angela Gheorghiu in this role, you will understand the importance of casting the ultimate Floria Tosca. She should enter the stage in a blaze of fiery red, a beautiful dress with metres of train as she calls for her lover, Cavaradossi.
Cavaradossi himself is something of the male equivalent of a diva; an egotistical artist, both arrogant and tender-hearted with strong political leanings. It is these political principles that ultimately propel him towards his downfall.
Floria Tosca is truly multi-faceted, which becomes clearer as the action progresses. She is vain, jealous and demanding with a murderous anger, but underneath her tough outer persona is a devoutly religious core as well as gentleness and fragility.
As we reach one of opera’s most famous and beautiful arias, “Vissi d’arte”, Tosca collapses on the stage as if in prayer, and beneath her glitz and diva-like demands lies the real Tosca, delicate as crystal.
Face heavenwards, tears glistening, she asks the ultimate question: “God why have you repaid me thus?”
(There are two casts,
so check the website for details)
II János Pál Pápa tér 30, District VIII
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