Culture Theatre

Tosca review – a fair revival to Puccini’s masterpiece

★★★☆☆

by Andrea Gaini

Wales Millennium Centre, 09/02/2018

Pictures by: Richard Huber Smith

After Madam Butterfly and La Bohème, the Welsh National Opera finished off the Puccini tour-de-force they had started last year, with a representation of the beautiful Tosca.

One of the three most famous operas by the Italian composer Giacomo Puccini, Tosca is truly a musical masterpiece. His music is lovely, carrying the audience through the tragic love-story of Tosca and Cavaradossi. Puccini is a clever and realistic composer; the music and story highlight the essential traits of human life, whether good or bad. Love, passion, faith, hate, and death are blended together in this beautiful opera which aims to represent life as viewed by the creator, and not, in Puccini’s words, a “decorative show”.

The WNO’s production, however, was only partially able to represent the beauty of Puccini’s work.

The direction, entrusted to Michael Blakemore, maintains the original time-frame and settings. The first act taking place in the chapel where Cavaradossi is painting his Magdalene, the second in the office of the evil Scarpia and the third and final act at the top of the tower from which Tosca will kill herself. While the scaffoldings, the painting, and the gate at the back of the set in the first act looked realistic and well picturing the chapel, the rest of the settings were highly pretentious and unrealistic, making the entire production seem not always at its highest professionality.

Nevertheless, the lighting brought the mood of the opera back together putting emphasis on the singers’ voices and their interpretation.

The cast was, as usual at the Welsh National Opera, excellent. Claire Rutter as Tosca was simply perfect from start to finish, reaching her most pleasurable moment in the interpretation of “Vissi d’arte”, a true highlight of the performance. Scarpia (Mark S Doss) was also a brilliant performer; his peculiar timber gave new lymph to his character. Donald Maxwell, playing the role of the Sacristan, was at his best performance in a role particularly familiar to him, having played another religious character in La Forza del Destino.

A slight critique goes to the tenor Hector Sandoval, whose gorgeous voice at times seemed to be lacking enough agility to maintain the same high level of performance of his top notes in those pianos, mezzo pianos, and pianissimos, which sometimes were somewhat weak.

All in all, this production of Tosca surely represented a valid performance, worth watching and enjoying the music of one of the greatest composers that ever existed.

Tosca is at the Wales Millennium Centre until the 23rd February, find tickets here.

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