Tosca, one of Giacomo Puccini’s best known operas, is a tale of political intrigue, murder, passion and love. The Canadian Opera Company’s most recent interpretation of this work premiered on January 21 at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. I should preface this by saying that Puccini is my favourite composer of opera and Tosca is one of my favourite of his works so my expectations were high.
Adrianne Pieczonka in the title role did not disappoint. Her rich, full lyric soprano instrument brilliantly captured the multi-faceted nature of this heroine. She was at times coquettish, fiery, anguished or desperate. Her dramatic talents are certainly equal to the challenge of this role and her performance captivated me throughout the entire show. Her performance of “Vissi d’Arte”, one of the most recognizable arias from this opera and indeed one of the best known arias in the canon, was breathtaking and painfully beautiful.
At first, I was less impressed by the other principal characters in production. Everyone demonstrated the level of talent and musical excellence that I would expect from a COC production and yet somehow I was not fully ensnared by development of characters other than Floria Tosca. While it goes without saying that the title role is key, one character simply cannot successfully carry the entire production.
Mark Delavan in the role of evil Baron Scarpia has a beautiful and fresh Baritone instrument. In this role, I felt he did not introduce enough bite and edge into his sound to fully convey the sinister nature of this character. Nevertheless, his scene with Tosca where he persuades her to sleep with him in exchange for her imprisoned lover’s life was revolting to watch and it was very satisfying to see him come to a sticky end.
I also adored the orchestra’s interpretation of Scarpia’s leitmotif. A leitmotif is thematic music used to signify a particular character and is generally repeated each time the character enters the stage or is mentioned. Scarpia’s dark, foreboding and highly melodramatic theme music is one of the best leitmotifs one will ever hear in an opera.
Although Carlo Ventre as Tosca’s lover, the painter Mario Cavaradossi, did not particularly stand out for me in the first two acts, his desperation and longing in the third act was palpable. His performance of “E lucevan le stelle”, another highly recognizable aria from this work, was intensely passionate and sincere and gave him the opportunity to demonstrate his dexterity at manipulating his vocal colour and timbre to suit the nuances of the piece.
Unfortunately the blocking in the third act became distracting. The beauty of one of the final scenes in which Cavaradossi laments the fact that poor Tosca’s gentle hands have been used to commit an ugly and desperate deed was marred by the fact that Tosca was positioned directly in front of Cavaradossi while he was singing with her back to the audience. My companion and I had a hard time understanding this blocking decision. There was also some milling about and running around by the prison guards while Tosca sang her swan song that seemed confused and unnecessary to my companion and I. These issues detracted from the dramatic intensity of the final act and the end of performance was somewhat anticlimactic to me.
Despite certain challenges with the opening night performance, the beauty of Puccini’s music is unparalleled. With solid performances from the entire cast and an especially stunning performance from Ms. Pieczonka, lovers of this composer and this opera will be happy they attended this performance.
– Tosca is playing at Four Season’s Centre for the Performing Arts (145 Queen St. W.) until February 25, 2012.
– Performance dates and times are:
- Wed. Jan. 25, 2012 at 7:30 p.m.
- Sun. Jan. 29, 2012 at 2 p.m.
- Tues. Jan. 31, 2012 at 7:30 p.m.
- Fri. Feb. 3, 2012 at 7:30 p.m.
- Sun. Feb. 5, 2012 at 2 p.m.
- Tues. Feb. 7, 2012 at 7:30 p.m.
- Thurs. Feb. 9, 2012 at 7:30 p.m.
- Sat. Feb. 11, 2012 at 7:30 p.m.
- Mon. Feb. 13, 2012 at 7:30 p.m.
- Thurs. Feb. 16, 2012 at 7:30 p.m.
- Tues. Feb. 21, 2012 at 7:30 p.m.
- Thurs. Feb. 23, 2012 at 7:30 p.m.
- Sat. Feb. 25, 2012 at 7:30 p.m.
– Ticket prices range from $45 – $318. Patrons under 30 years of age can purchase tickets for $22. Standing room and rush tickets go on sale at 11:00 am on the day of the performance. Standing room tickets are $12.00, rush tickets are $22.00
– Tickets are available online, or through the box office at 416-363-8231
Photo of Adrienne Pieczonka, Mark Delavan and David Cangelosi by Michael Cooper