DramaNorth East & YorkshireOperaReview

Tosca – The Lyceum, Sheffield

Composer: Giacomo Puccini

Director: Blanche McIntyre

Conductor: Michael Rosewell

Designer : Florence de Maré

Reviewer: Sheila Stratford

Love, passion, menace, lust, revenge, intrigue and murder; Puccini’s opera Tosca has it all.

These great passions lead to great misery.

Set in Rome around the 1800s, Floria Tosca, a famous singer, and her lover, the artist Cavaradossi, become embroiled in the political intrigue of the time. Baron Scarpia, the malevolent police chief pursue and torture Cavaradossi whom he suspects of sheltering the escaped political prisoner Angelotti, while Scarpia lusts after the passionate Tosca, determined to seduce her by any means. She is tricked by Scarpia into believing her lover will be spared, however, a powerful tragedy ensues.

Puccini based his opera around Victorien Sardou’s 1887 French-language dramatic play. Puccini, a master of the melodrama, never fails to pull at the heart strings with his orchestration, and this is one of his most popular operas. The Italian libretto (with English surtitles) is by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, forming an opera in three acts. This is director Blanche McIntyre’s first opera production for the English Touring Opera and she has been successful in escaping the trap of creating a too over romanticised, melodramatic Tosca. 

Paula Sides’ Tosca is superb. Her voice is strong and carries great emotion and clarity. The chemistry between her and Alexander James Edwards’ Cavaradossi is thoroughly believable. His vocal expression is powerful and their voices are well matched.

Craig Smith’s Scarpia is an aloof, menacing character.  However, it is in through the lesser role of Spoletta by Aled Hall, that the emotions of real disgust and hatred are generated.

The set is simple, and Florence de Maré has cleverly incorporated a series of steps and ramps across the whole stage that successfully enables the voices to be well projected and the action clearly seen. A large tower dominates the scene, while the steps and ramps enable a sense of movement and diversity in the scenes. Though, on a few occasions, there is a fear the performers may trip if care is not taken. The costumes are set in the period and are not overstated or too flamboyant.

The orchestra led by the conductor Michael Rosewell, are accomplished and sensitive in volume to the singers. This is a wonderful production of the well-loved opera Tosca by the English Touring Opera.

Touring Nationwide | Image: Richard Hubert-Smith

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