Tosca (TV Movie 2014) Poster

(2014 TV Movie)

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One of those productions where you know right from when the curtain rises that you'll be in for a great time
TheLittleSongbird12 July 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Tosca is my favourite Puccini opera and a huge personal favourite full-stop. The story is dark and tragic and the music has plenty of lyricism and power, both of those are particularly true in the tour-de-force that is Act 2. There are some great Toscas out there, first choice going to the Kabaivanska/Domingo/Milnes film with the Malfitano/Domingo/Raimondi one not far off either. In fact the Mattila/Alvarez/Gadnidze and Patane/Cura/Bruson productions are the only productions of Tosca not really worth bothering with. Watching the entire production on Youtube, I was really impressed by this production by Opera Australia.

What was immediately noticeable about this Tosca was how truly beautiful it looked. The costumes are detailed and rich in colour, the best one being the decadent but striking dress for Tosca in Act 2, but the real revelation was the gold and marble church setting for Act 1. It is one of the best-looking sets personally seen for any production of Tosca, one of the few that actually looks like the inside of a church. The staging is incredibly compelling, even with the action being moved forward the storytelling is as clear as crystal and all the characters and motivations are well-defined without being obvious. There are no gimmicks to interrupt the flow of the production or trivialise the intensity of the drama, yes admittedly the molesting of one of the female officers by Scarpia was a bit of a turn off(though that was far less distasteful than any of the ideas dreamt up in the Mattila performance) but the Nazi-controlled Rome setting actually worked quite well. It was constantly tense and intriguing without it ever been taken to extremes.

Musically, the production is spot-on. The orchestra play the score with real resonance, beauty of tone and much power and nuance. The brass bring plenty of oomph and intensity right from the opening bars and the cello solos, one of the moments from the score that gets me every time, at the beginning of Act 3 is sublime. Cristian Bardea gives an authoritative and stylish reading, with every colour and every emotion fully embraced. He and the orchestra are always in sync with what is going on on stage and always enhance the action. The chorus don't have a very large role and there is not much to their part dramatically, but they sing with attention to balance and a great deal of warmth and tonal beauty. The secondary supporting roles are all well taken, with the top marks going to John Bolton Wood, a lively part played delightfully and sung characterfully.

But Tosca is a very principal-driven opera, and none of the three leads disappoint. Personal favourite is the Cavaradossi of Yonghoon Lee. He plays the role with much nobility and passion and he is very moving in Act 3, when he is tortured you really feel the pain. And his singing is incredible, great musicianship and beautiful tone with a high register that most tenors today could only wish for one so rich, he sings Recondita Armonia with heroism, the Act 1 duet with a romantic quality in a way that you'd completely understand why Tosca fell for him and E Lucevan E Le Stelle is very deeply felt. Alexia Voulgaridou is as impassioned as Toscas come, it is a very fully rounded characterisation that is seductive and occasionally diva-like to begin with but later tormented and passionate. One review of the production talks of Tosca's deadly rage being on behalf of her people and their suffering rather than for herself and Caveradossi on the spur of the moment, and I absolutely agree. John Wegner's voice is rather worn for my liking but his acting is superb. Scarpia, one of the greatest villain characters in all of opera, is a truly menacing villain here, one where you can see the evil and manipulation dripping off him. But Wegner does bring a subtlety to the role too so it doesn't feel like a one-dimensional caricature nor does it feel extreme.

In conclusion, a really impressively done Tosca, one where you know from the first curtain rise and from first glimpse of that jaw-droppingly beautiful Act 1 set that you'll be in for a great time, with fine singing and compelling storytelling. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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