The Canadian Opera Company opens an amazing production of Puccini’s Tosca that together with Macbeth wraps up the current season. This is the third revival of Paul Curran’s 2008 production. It has earned its staying power and garnered a standing ovation.
Any production of Tosca requires three outstanding singers: a tenor for the hero Mario Cavaradossi, a soprano for the heroine Flora Tosca and a baritone for the despicable Baron Scarpia. There are other roles who need to entertain us such as the Sacristan who is a comic character and needs to sing, make gestures and facial grimaces to get some laughs and bass Donato di Stefano does a fine job..
There is also the desperate Angelotti of bass baritone Christian Pursell and the lovely tones of the Shepherd Boy sung by Olivia Pady from the Canadian Children’s Opera Company. If you ever wondered what a shepherd is doing in the middle of a seriously built-up area of Rome in the Castel Sant’Angelo, wonder no more. The area around the castle was not built at all around 1800, the time of the opera, and there were flocks of sheep around there.
Let me praise the singers. Tenor Stefano La Colla in his debut with the COC sang a superb Cavaradossi that was a thrill to listen to. After the insolence and comic business of the Sacristan, he breaks out with “Recondita armonia” and lets out nothing less than vocal pyrotechnics. He waxes romantic and alluring as the jealous Tosca accuses him of infidelity. He reaches for the stars when he sings Vittoria and ends with the luminous “E lucevan le stelle.”
American soprano Keri Alkema is reprising her 2017 performance as Tosca and gives a superb performance. It is a role that makes serious demands on the soprano. She starts as the jealous, suspicious and histrionic woman who loves Cavaradossi. In a nice touch, she will not let him kiss her in front of the Madonna. In the second act Alkema/Tosca meets the challenge of psychological torture leading to betrayal as Scarpia forces her to disclose the whereabouts of the escaped Angelotti.
She is driven to the edge of despair and finds the strength and vocal beauty in “Vissi d’arte” to sing about living for art and beauty. A gorgeous rendition. Then comes the attempted rape, the horror and the triumphant stabbing of the creep. Scarpia pleads for help and as he is dying, Tosca leans over him and says “Die with my curse! Die..die..die!” Alkema delivers these words almost matter-of-factly. I think they should contain venomous, demonic triumph as she gets even with him. It is the only disappointing moment in her performance.
Scottish baritone Roland Wood as Scarpia encapsulates lust, evil, torture and deceit. He was so convincing that some people booed him during curtain call, confusing the singer-actor with the character that he portrayed. Marvelous performance.
Curran and Set and Costume Designer Curran opt for an effective production eschewing Zeffirellian excesses. The set from the church scene to Scarpia’s office to the roof of the Sant’Angelo castle are appropriate without being ostentatious. The COC Orchestra is conducted by Giuliano Carella.
The production does have an alternate Tosca sung by Sinead Campbell-Wallace and a Shepherd Boy sung by Zoya Avramova.
This is a truly outstanding production that does credit to the COC. In the words of Oliver “More, please.”
Tosca by Giacomo Puccini opened on May 5 and will be performed eight times until May 27, 2023, at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 145 Queen Street West, Toronto, Ontario. www.coc.ca