Welcome New Opera North Tosca Production has an Outstanding Singer in the Title Role

18/11/2018

Puccini, Tosca: Chorus and Orchestra of Opera North / Jonathan Santagada (conductor). The Lowry Theatre, Salford Quays, 14.11.2018. (RJF)

Giselle Allen (Tosca) & Rafael Rojas (Cavaradossi) (c) Richard H Smith

Cast:

Floria Tosca – Giselle Allen
Mario Cavaradossi – Rafael Rojas
Baron Scarpia – Robert Hayward
Cesare Angelotti – John Savournin
Spoletta – Rupert Charlesworth

Production:

Director – Edward Dick
Set designer – Tom Scutt
Costume designer – Fotini Dimou
Lighting designer – Lee Curran
Choreographer – Maxine Braham

Opera North celebrated its thirtieth anniversary with a reprise of an earlier Christopher Alden production of Tosca whose set by Charles Edwards looked like the junk outhouse of a church with its sacristy, full of clutter including a statue of the Madonna, a confessional, assorted chairs and tea-making equipment as well as Cavaradossi’s paint gear. It was stark and perhaps meant to outline the brutality of the story. Alden seemed not merely content to outline that brutality, but to underline it in the décor, if I could call it that. This extended to the adjacent office of the sacristan who smoked his day away watching TV or selling lottery tickets throughout all three acts without an outward glance of the rape and murder going on outside his window! (For a review click here.)

Thankfully, Edward Dick’s new Tosca production (to celebrate Opera North fortieth anniversary) consigns Alden’s effort, or aberration, to history and has sets by Tom Scutt. Updating is the name of the game, but at least the set is decorative, albeit I did not like the idea of Act II being played in Scarpia’s bedroom with his lusting of Tosca involving scampering over his angle iron framed bed. Given the propensity of the character’s sadism, I suppose it is feasible that Tosca would find a knife, conveniently placed, on an adjacent table. Most obvious in that act, is the reinforcement of the updating by the presence of a laptop used by Scarpia to show Tosca the torturing of Cavaradossi. Smart phones were also in full view as the sadist’s henchmen communicated with the torture chamber.

We only saw the sacristan when it was appropriate, particularly after the arrival of Angelotti, via rope, from the open topped and elegantly decorated cupola, which in Act III, was tilted to the horizontal and from which Tosca jumps to her death. Not quite like Castel Sant’Angelo, but effective, particularly when aided by brilliantly bright stage lighting at that point. The Act I staging with twinkling lights around the church as Cavaradossi’s painting is wheeled about is effective and atmospheric, the lights being also present later.  As to the Act III staging of the arrival of Cavaradossi for his execution, I felt it lost a little impact in the manner of its visual presentation of him in the middle of the stage. However, overall, I found the staging and musical contributions to be of excellent impact dramatically, and after all, that is what matters in an operatic production. This staging will last Opera North well I suggest.

On the musical side the orchestral playing under Jonathan Santagada was quite outstanding. His tempi and modulation of the orchestral forces, and support for his singers, could hardly be better. Of the singing cast two had been involved in the Alden production ten years ago, both Opera North regulars, a pleasing habit of the company. First to be heard was Rafael Rojas who last season as Riccardo in Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera (for review click here) where I found his singing to be coarse, often loud and lacking vocal elegance in failing to caress Verdi’s phrases. This time round he brought plenty of heft to ‘Recondita armonia’ in Act I and vocal sensitivity in his treatment of Tosca as she suspected him of double timing her with the lady in his painting on the easel. His cries of ‘Vittoria! Vittoria!’ in Act II had plenty of agonised heft whilst his singing of ‘E lucevan le stelle’ was ideal in its sensitivity of tone and expression. It reminded me very much of his younger days with the company. Robert Hayward’s Scarpia has also weathered well. Looking back at my criticism then, it is mirrored in this performance this time too. An extra depth of darker tone and physical demeanor would add to a more saturnine impact, particularly in Act I.

Most important of all to the cast is the capacity of the singer playing the eponymous role. I have seen a lot of different sopranos as Tosca, both live and on film. Giselle Allen matches the very best I have seen both as singer and actress. Her phrasing, subtle changes of dynamic and vocal characterisation mark out the superb quality of her interpretation, which is, in simple terms, world-class. We are fortunate, privileged, to have seen her consummate interpretation in this performance.

Robert J. Farr

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

MW

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Some Forthcoming London Events from Temple Music __________________________________
  • NEW! Royal Opera House Cinema Festival Begins Monday 3 December in State-of-the-Art Linbury Theatre __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Ballet at the London Coliseum 13 December 2018 – 20 January 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Looking Ahead to the 2019 Lucerne Festivals __________________________________
  • NEW! Sándor Végh Memorial Concerts 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera Perform Amahl and the Night Visitors in December __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera Holland Park’s 2019 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The Met: Live in HD in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Royal Opera House’s Exciting 2018/19 Cinema Season __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Zurich Opera in 2018/2019 and Beyond __________________________________
  • NEW! Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
 in 2018/2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Edinburgh Sunday International Concerts Series in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • NEW! Salzburg Whitsun Festival 7 – 10 June 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Bolshoi Ballet 2018/19 UK Cinema Season __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018-2019 Geneva Grand Theâtre Season __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Hallé Season in Manchester __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! CONDUCTOR ELIM CHAN IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! Iain Farrington’s Mahler Piano Series was an Extraordinary Marathon __________________________________
  • NEW! Vancouver New Music’s Quartetti Festival: Recharging the Contemporary String Quartet __________________________________
  • NEW! SOPRANO ELENA MOȘUC IN CONVERSATION WITH CASEY CREEL __________________________________
  • NEW! THE PIANIST ANGELA HEWITT IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • R.I.P. Montserrat Caballé (1933 – 2018): A Personal Tribute by Jack Buckley __________________________________
  • NEW! The Future of Opera is Theatre: An Essay by Casey Creel __________________________________
  • NEW! Jacqui and David Morris’s New Documentary Film Nureyev Celebrates a Unique Man and Dancer __________________________________
  • NEW! MAESTRO RICCARDO FRIZZA IN CONVERSATION WITH MARGARIDA MOTA-BULL __________________________________
  • NEW! THE GESUALDO SIX IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH GERMAN SOPRANO PETRA LANG __________________________________
  • NEW! TENOR NICHOLAS PHAN IN CONVERSATION WITH CHRISTOPHER SALLON __________________________________
  • NEW! THE PIANIST GEORGE HARLIONO IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • Search S&H

    Archives by Week

    Archives by Month