Tosca (Opera North)
November 7 2018
Theatre Royal, Nottingham
Review: William Ruff
A new Tosca from Opera North that looks as good as it sounds
It’s easy to see why Tosca was called a ‘shabby little shocker’. At its heart is a scene where the chief of police is trying to have his wicked way with the heroine whilst her boyfriend is being tortured offstage. And then there are those final moments involving an execution and a spectacular suicide. But it’s amazing how Puccini’s music transforms a lurid melodrama into something which can move and thrill.
Opera North’s new production looks good. Although it’s uprooted from its Napoleonic setting to the present day, it seems to work, even as far as making Tosca watch her lover’s torture via a laptop screen.
In all three Acts the set is dominated by a Pantheon-like cupola, serving as church ceiling, Baron Scarpia’s bedroom adornment and the window from which Tosca plummets to her death. It’s a neat, unifying idea.
There’s plenty of strong acting in this production, including the minor roles such as the alcoholic Sacristan and the various henchmen who carry out Scarpia’s sadistic orders.
One of the most thrilling episodes is the end of Act 1 in which the well-drilled children’s chorus sings the Te Deum. And there is some lovely singing too from Shepherd Boy Ben Hayes.
But the weight of the music drama falls on the shoulders of the three principals. Giselle Allen (Tosca) is by turns a jealous tigress and a deeply vulnerable woman.
Rafael Rojas may look a bit too weather-beaten as her lover Cavaradossi but his voice packs a powerful, if not always beautiful, punch.
Robert Hayward is always evilly impressive as Scarpia, vocally as well as physically brutal, a man who will do anything to get his way.
Conductor Antony Hermus finds plenty of fresh detail in the familiar score – and the orchestra plays with distinction throughout.
Opera North’s new production of Tosca
Conductor: Antony Hermus
Director: Edward Dick
Designer: Tom Scutt
Floria Tosca: Susannah Glanville
Mario Cavaradossi: Rafael Rojas
Baron Scarpia: Robert Hayward
Cesare Angelotti: John Savournin
Sacristan: Matthew Stiff
Chorus and Orchestra of Opera North