Tosca cast

Last weekend’s opening of Vancouver Opera’s Tosca was a treat for the senses. Act one of the well-loved tragic love story (and one of Puccini’s most often-produced operas) begins in the Church of Sant’Andrea della Valle, beautifully illuminated to capture both the singers and set by Lighting Designer Gerald King.

Cesare Angelotti (Stephen Hegedus), escaped political prisoner and leader of the short-lived Roman republic, looks for refuge in the chapel. Mario Cavaradossi agrees to hide Angelotti at his nearby villa, soon to be interrupted by celebrated singer Floria Tosca’s arrival. Tosca, always the drama queen, is green with envy when she eyes the subject of her lover’s painting, Marchesa Attavanti (“Make her eyes less blue!”). Soprano Michele Capalbo and tenor David Pomeroy have excellent chemistry together, adding much vocal richness to the lead roles.

David Pomeroy, Michele Capalbo
[David Pomeroy, Michele Capalbo]

Tosca may be Cavaradossi’s lover, but the evil-minded Chief of Police Baron Scarpia wants her all to himself. Baritone Gordon Hawkins makes his Vancouver Opera debut in this meaty role. He orders several of his agents to find Angelotti, believing he’s sought refuge in the aforementioned church.

Gordon Hawkins, Michele Capalbo
[Gordon Hawkins, Michele Capalbo]

When Scarpia learns that Cavaradossi’s been in that church, Scarpia’s suspicions of Cavaradossi’s actions are confirmed and so begins a series of fateful events that lead to his eventual execution. As Cavaradossi’s being tortured in the next room, Scarpia draws Tosca ever closer to him, with Tosca repulsed by his every move. Seething, he’s not likely to give up his taunting lust. Knowing how much she hates him during these moments, he utters the brilliant line, “Passionate hatred or passionate love – what’s the difference?”.

Once Tosca manages to get that knife off a nearby candlelit table, she cunningly draws revenge on the monster with a plunge into his chest, an act sealing her own tragic fate.

Especially enjoyable to watch is how the lighting and sets play off of one another during three entirely unique stage sets, especially into the slower build up of the third act, where on the sun-splashed rooftop of the Castel Sant’Angelo, we find Cavaradossi, awaiting his execution.

Tosca cast

Light and shadows play off the stone wall, later drained of all colour while the rear of the stage turns red and black, effectively capturing the play’s devasting ending.

The costly, detail-rich traditional set was created for the Lyric Opera of Kansas City in 2009 for reuse by other producing companies. This particular production doesn’t rely on modern technology to enhance either plot or stage action.

The stage is raked (to equalize surface angles) by five degrees (increasing in one-inch increments from six to 16” in total), necessitating additional and varying heights be added to desks, chairs, tables, and staircases. This adds further depth to the visual splendour – and keeps wine glasses and pens from rolling into the orchestra pit.

Tosca cast

First produced by Vancouver Opera on October 18, 1962, 2013’s Tosca is a sheer delight to witness, with a strong vocal cast worthy of any opera production.

The roles of Mario Cavaradossi and Floria Tosca are performed on alternate nights by Adam Diegel and Tamara Mancini respectively .

Tosca continues at the Queen E Theatre through November 3. Photos by Tim Matheson.

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