OperaReviewSouth East

Tosca – Theatre Royal, Norwich

Composer: Giacomo Puccini
Director: Blanche McIntyre
Conductor: Michael Rosewell
Reviewer: Lu Greer

Tosca, structured as a through-composed work to an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Guiseppe Giacosa, tells a story of tragic love in 1800 Italy. With a historical grounding in the French Revolutionary Wars, the opera follows the story or an escaped political prisoner and the fates of those around him. The famous singer Floria Tosca and her artist lover Cavaradossi become caught up in events, and with the malicious chief of police Baron Scarpia pursuing Tosca for himself, the fates of the characters soon intertwine in tragedy.

This is Blanche McIntye’s first opera with the English Touring Opera, and despite her drama pedigree could certainly have been a rather testing first, with the heritage of the piece, the depth of its emotions, and the danger of creating something too melodramatic.

In the lead as Tosca Paula Sides, recipient of the Tagor Gold Medal, as well as being an established performer in multiple operas, lives up to, and in places surpasses expectations. The impressive power behind her voice never detracts from the emotions of the character, nor does it hinder her softer moments. She truly shines in her performance of Vissi d’arte (I Lived for Art), which halts the action in a way which could have been detrimental but in reality, feels as though the world has stopped to listen to her heartbreak over an unjust God.

While Alexander James Edward’s Cavaradossi works well with Sides’ Tosca, and there is certainly chemistry, he at times feels a little lost when on stage without her, such is her presence throughout the performance. In contrast, Craig Smith’s Scarpia, particularly when paired with Aled Hall’s Spoletta, create a menacing and cruel juxtaposition to Tosca.

The staging choice to have a series of steps and ramps does at times come across as a little odd, particularly when there are few characters on stage. However, it works wonderfully at projecting the voices on the stage and allows for more movement of characters. The simple set combined with the understated period costumes, while at times visually underwhelming, allows for a piece which focuses on the music.

The orchestra conducted by Michael Rosewell which compliments the singers well allows the audience this concentrate on voice in a refreshing way.

While the chemistry between characters is perhaps a little lacking in places, and there is nothing aesthetically unique, this opera is still able to achieve something very special. Each of the voices filling the theatre allows the audience to feel every emotion portrayed in a real, honest, and moving way.

Runs Until Friday 2 June 2017 | Image: Contributed

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