Author Archive for: ‘CarolBenet’

“Tosca” at SF Opera

Puccini’s “Tosca” at SF Opera

Carol Benet

A  stunning performance of Giacomo Puccini’s “Tosca” runs at the San Francisco Opera through October 30, 2018.

Carmen Giannattosio, a beautiful Italian soprano with a golden and powerful voice, makes her her debut in the role of the fiery actress Floria Tosca who is at the center of the action in this beloved Puccini opera. Giannattosio has already performed in the great opera houses in Milan, London as well as the New York Metropolitan Opera, but this is her first time in San Francisco.  I hope she returns often.

Tosca’s lover, the artist Cavaradossii, is played by Brian Jagde,  the American tenor who came up through the Merola Opera and the Adler Fellow training programs and performs worldwide.  In this performance he and Tosca sing some of the most beautiful duets in opera history.

This is also the first time that the conductor Leo Hussain from London has appeared in San Francisco and from the beginning overture containing leitmotifs of the action to follow, it is clear that the fine SF Opera Orchestra is in capable hands as it responds to his decisive leadership.

Shawn Lucey’s direction brings new insights into the work.  “Tosca” is often performed opera  in San Francisco (175 times in 38 seasons). It was first seen here in 1923 to open season here.  And in 1932 “Tosca” inaugurated the new War Memorial Opera House and appeared again for the reopening after renovations in 1997. Lucey’s superbly directs the excellent cast that sings and acts equally well.  Her current “Tosca” is  fresh and exciting.

Also new is the set by Robert James Clark, one that opens up in an unnamed church in the time of Napoleonic Rome. His set allows scenes that are less crowded than previous ones in which soloists as well as the chorus (conducted by the masterful Ian Robertson) can move more freely.  Robert Innes Hopkins is the Production Designer for this gorgeous opera and lighting by Michael James Clark adds to the stage drama. As the action progresses, new scenes contain art that refers to  famous sculpture, painting and architecture in Rome during the Napoleonic period, the time of the opera.  To fix an historical date, there is announcement that Napoleon has won the battle of Marengo in the Piedmont, Italy (1800), bad news to the rightist political forces that the lovers oppose.

The story unrolls in three short acts with two intermissions.  A political prisoner who just escaped the roman prison in the Castel Sant’Angelo, Cesare Angelotti (Hadleigh Adams), seeks refuge in the church where his sister has left a key and some food. A bumbling and humorous sacristan (Dale Travis) and Cavaradossi move around in the space.  Tosca, who is outside, hears voices and enters enraged with jealousy because she thinks her lover is hiding a woman.  She notices that the painting he is working on is of a woman with blue eyes unlike her fiery brown ones.  This starts the two themes of the opera, the love affair of the two and the escapes from the political rightists ruling the city.

The Roman chief of police, the wicked Baron Scarpia (Scott Hendricks), has designs on Tosca and uses his power to seduce her. If she will submit to his sexual demands, he will free Cavaradossi who has been arrested for aiding Angelotti’s escape. The wicked Scarpia, one of the most evil of the many villains in opera, pursues Tosca while they hear the sounds and see the silhouette of Cavaradossi’s torture. Scarpia will free her only she allows him to rape her.

A vulnerable woman pursued by a powerful man is a very current theme in our own current events.  This as well as a far-right regime in charge make this opera very timely.

The rest of the story is iconic and I don’t want to be a spoiler in recounting it. It is a plot that leaves the audience at the edge of their seats.  The entire production of “Tosca” is a masterful feat. Tickets  standing room at $10 to $398 at sfopera.org or 415 864 3330.

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