Sunday 13 December 2015

Opera Review: Tosca, The Metropolitan Opera, New York City

Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca is based on an 1887 French play by Victorien Sardou and was first performed in Rome in the January of 1900.

Yet this opera favourite is intimately connected to its setting – the Rome of 1800. The city’s inhabitants wait to hear the outcome of the Battle of Marengo, while, against the background of various Roman monuments, political strife leads to a series of personal tragedies.

Unlike the Met’s Rigoletto, which I reviewed a few weeks ago for this blog, this Tosca is traditional in its appearance and costuming, as we journey from the Church of Sant’Andrea della Valle to the Palazzo Farnese and, ultimately, to the battlements of the Castel Sant’Angelo.

Act II of the Met's production
This season sees a rotating cast of 9 taking on the opera’s lead characters. I saw Ukrainian soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska in the title role, with Italian tenor Roberto Aronica as Cavaradossi and Italian baritone Marco Vratogna as Scarpia.

Monastyrska is charming in Act One, as Tosca flirts with Cavaradossi and struggles to contain her unfounded jealousy, but really comes into her own in her scenes with Vratogna, as she tries to free her lover from torture and protect herself from Scarpia’s advances.

Rather than the steady descent into tragedy that many operas follow, what I love about Tosca is how close we come to a happy ending. Even though we know that their escape will fail, in this production there was something so touching about the lovers’ reunion that you almost start believing with them.

What’s more, with Scarpia dead - the ‘bad guy’ defeated – Cavaradossi’s death, and then Tosca’s, feels unfair rather than unavoidable, provoking an emotional response much more similar to losses we might have experienced in our own lives.

The performance felt like a little slice of Rome over Thanksgiving weekend in New York City – filled with passion and dramatic in its staging, but still somehow relatable enough to be genuinely affecting.

What do you think the Secret Victorianist should see next? Let me know – here, on Facebook or by tweeting @SVictorianist.

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