Director: Michael Blakemore
Revival Director: Benjamin Davis
Conductor: Carlo Rizzi
Reviewer: Emily Pearce
As one of the genre’s most empathetic composers, Puccini’s Tosca has everything one might want and from high opera and melodrama. An opera about an opera singer trying to defend her politically doomed lover as the state rebels; Tosca is a story steeped in betrayal, murder and lust; and is, for many, the ultimate soprano diva role. Welsh National Opera (WNO) doesn’t disappoint here with its traditional and well-paced revival, aided, of course, by the pulsating score, played with relish here by Carlo Rizzi’s ever-fantastic musical direction.
Sometimes, opera is at its best when most literal; Ashley Martin-David and Mark Henderson’s impeccable set designs enhance the melodrama at every turn; from the church overflowing with candles as political prisoner on the run, Ancelotti, desperately prays in Act 1, to the sword of Damocles quite literally seemingly hovering over Tosca’s lover, Cavardossi, as he prepares for his execution – every act creates a complete & separate ambience. This, along with well-balanced and spaced direction from revival director Benjamin Davis, allows Puccini’s trio of the damned to flourish; highlighting their more human complexities and flaws from what, in the wrong production, can sometimes be two-dimensional or overwrought caricatures.
Credit must also go to a charismatic cast; who relish their roles with an enthusiasm and commitment. Claire Rutter’s Tosca ticks all the right boxes; she’s passionate, yet pious and vulnerable, providing a heart-rending account of Floria Tosca’s final hours – her Act 2 aria Vissi D’Arte, is a poised and affecting account, as she realises that she has no choice but to surrender her principals to free her lover from possible execution is poignant and controlled. As Mario Cavaradossi, Hector Sandoval is sincere and uncomplicated, with wonderful high notes and a lyricism well suited to Italian verismo. Occasionally it seems clear he is noticeably looking at the conductor for musical cues, nevertheless, as a couple, they are entirely endearing. Mark S Doss is a highlight, relishing in playing up the villainous Scarpia. Mellifluous and prowling, he cuts an unnerving figure as he stalks around Tosca with increasing lust, matched by his deep and rich bass-baritone. On occasion in productions of Tosca, the orchestra can overpower, but here the singers are all well matched and in Mark S Doss’s case, soars in his spine-tingling and sinister Act 1 closer, Te Deum.
Whether you are new to opera, or a well-seasoned pro, WNO’s Tosca has enough heart, guts and drama to enthral all tastes. High drama at its best.
Runs until 23rd February 2018 | Image: Contributed