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Welsh National Opera: Tosca – The Mayflower, Southampton

Music: Giacomo Puccini

Director: Michael Blakemore

Conductor: Simon Phillippo

Reviewer: Sharon MacDonald-Armitage



Credit Robert Workman

Credit Robert Workman

The year is 1800, the place is Rome and the brutal regime of Baron Scarpia (Claudio Otelli) Chief of Police reigns. Painter Mario Cavaradossi (Gywn Hughes Jones) is in love with the beautiful singer Floria Tosca (Mary Elizabeth Williams) who is lusted after by Scarpia. As the drama between these three characters moves from love, lust, betrayal, murder and death the definitive opera Tosca unfolds.

From curtain up the audience is caught in the soaring music of Puccini which transports them through a rollercoaster of emotions. From the wonderful set designs by Ashley Martin-Davis through to the magnificent contrast and use of Mark Henderson’s lighting there is a real feeling of foreboding from the beginning.

Welsh tenor Hughes Jones’ voice has a wonderful tone and he delivers his arias with passion making his love for Tosca convincing and real, this is a leading man who conveys his character with such emotion; a rich tenor that doesn’t fail to tug on the heart strings. American soprano Williams excels as Tosca and is the perfect foil for Jones thus complimenting each other superbly. Tosca’s love for Cavaradossi is without a doubt heartbreaking and Williams expresses this with all the emotion of a woman in torment and uncertainty. There was a palpable intake of breath from the audience in Act II when Tosca murders Scarpia; violently stabbing him and straddling his dead body while coming to terms with her actions. The emotional trauma is emphasised when her religious convictions compel her to place candles at the head of his dead body and lay a crucifix across his chest before fleeing. Williams conveys real emotion and terror in this gore-fest of a murder.

Claudio Otelli gives a sterling performance as Scarpia but there are times when his character is not quite menacing enough and lacks light and shade; a more Machiavellian depiction in Act I would have set the character up splendidly for Act II. His voice is excellent; however there are moments when the orchestra dominate his singing, particularly in Act II.

This production is full of beautiful, accessible music, the plot is easy to follow and this WNO production is simply superb and stunning in its musicality and setting. If there is an opera to see then this is the one. See it now before it’s too late.


Runs until Saturday 30th November 2013.


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One comment

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    I saw this production on 26th November and it was quite simply mind-blowing. I don’t agree with the reviewer’s comment that Claudio Otello was lost in the orchestra at times. Admittedly, I was only 3 rows back, but I heard every syllable. I also liked his less than pantomime villain depiction. I didn’t want to hate him straight away, but only to feel that almost posthumously with the discovery of his last deception in Act III. At all events, modern depictions of Machiavelli often show him as a more sympathetic character too!