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An opera in three acts by Giacomo Puccini, Tosca is the passionate story of lust, revenge, and sacrifice.  Passionate, jealous, generous, fiercely loyal, and ruthlessly violent, Tosca's turbulent contradictions compel us.  She is the ultimate Diva.

ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre, Auckland

From the Promo:

Tosca is the opera that conquered the world.  This passionate story of lust, revenge, and sacrifice is one of the most successful and beloved operas in the repertoire.  Jealous and fiercely loyal, Tosca’s turbulent contradictions compel us.  She loves passionately yet holds firm to her faith; she’s overwhelmingly generous while also ruthlessly violent.  Tosca is the fire that burns throughout this monumental drama.  She is the ultimate Diva.

We are thrilled that Orla Boylan will sing this captivating title role.  And she is met by men worth fighting for – or against.  As Cavaradossi, superstar Simon O’Neill unleashes the Italian hero within as his soaring voice takes flight in one of the best tenor roles ever composed.  He meets his match in Phillip Rhodes’ fanatically evil Scarpia.  Performing roles they were born to sing, Orla and these two New Zealanders bring the drama to this most dramatic of operas.

With Puccini’s powerful and visceral music illuminating the beauty and the ancient faith of the Eternal City, we defy you not to lose your heart to Tosca - and your soul to this extraordinary story.  Featuring the famous arias ‘E lucevan le stelle’ and ‘Vissi d’arte’.

 

Cast

Floria Tosca:  Orla Boylan

MArio Cavaradossi:  Simon O'Neill

Baron Scarpia:  Phillip Rhodes

Cesare Angelotti:  James Clayton

A Sacristan:  Barry Mora

Spoletia:  James Benjamin Rodgers

Sciarrone:  Wae Kernot

A Jailer:  Jarvis Dams

A Shepherd Boy:  Cameron Brownsey / Xavier Francis

 

Creative Team

Conductor:  Tobias Ringborg

Director:  Stuart Maunder

Assistant Director:  Tamsyn Matchett

Set Designer:  Jan Ubels

Costume Designer:  Elizabeth Whiting

Lighting Designer:  Jason Morphett

 

Accompanied by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra and featuring the Freemasons NZ OPERA Chorus.

Sung in Italian with English surtitles.

Act One

Morning.  The Church of Sant'Anrea della Valle in Rome.

Cesare Angelotti, a political prisoner, has escaped form the Castel Sant'Angelo.  He finds refuge in the Attavanti family chapel, using a key hidden in the church by his sister, the Marchesa Attavanti.

As the Sacristan kneels in prayer for the Angelus, Mario Cavaradossi arrives to continue work on a painting of Mary Magdalene.  The picture, he admits, has been inspired both by his mistress, the singer Floria Tosca, and by a young woman he has seen at prayer in the church.

As the Sacristan leaves, Angelotti emerges.  Cavaradossi recognises him and promises to help.  Hearing Tosca's voice outside, he gives Angelotti a basket of food and hurries him into hiding once more.

Tosca, however, has heard their voices in the church; when she finds Mario alone, her jealousy is aroused.  Cavaradossi soothes her, until she sees the Magdalene portraits.  Cavaradossi calms her; they agree to meet later.

Angelotti emerges from hiding as the prison cannon announces that his escape has been discovered.  Cavaradossi escorts him to safety.

The Sacristan returns: a great political victory has been won, a Te Deum is to be sung in celebration, and Tosca will perform at the Farnese Palace that evening. 

The altar boys' revels end abruptly, however, at the arrival of Baron Scarpia, the Chief of Police, whose men have tracked Angelotti to the church.

A search reveals an empty food basket in the Attavanti chapel, together with a fan bearing the family's crest.  Has Cavaradossi, already politically suspect, helped an escaped prisoner?

Tosca returns: her performance that evening means she and Mario cannot meet that night.  Cavaradossi's absence arouses her suspicions, further fuelled by Scarpia's insinuations and his revelation of the Attavanti fan.

Tosca rushes away and Scarpia sends men in pursuit.  As the Te Deum reaches its climax, he relishes the thought of victory over both Cavaradossi and Tosca.

Act Two
That evening.  Scarpia's apartments at the Farnese Palace.

Scarpia, anticipating success, has sent for Tosca.  His assistant, Spoletta, returns: a search of Cavaradossi's villa has failed to find Angelotti, but Cavaradossi has been arrested in his place.  As Tosca's voice is heard form the concert nearby, Cavaradossi refuses to answer Scarpia's questions.  frustrated, Scarpia sends him to the torturers.

Tosca arrives.  Scarpia's questioning grown more urgent until, hearing Mario's cries of pain, she reveals Angelotti's hiding place. 

Mario is brought in, but his reconciliation with Tosca is short-lived as Scarpia reveals her betrayal.  Suddenly Sciarrone enters: news of the political victory was premature - they have suffered a major defeat.

Alone with Scarpia, Tosca bargains for Mario's life.  His terms are simple and, when she reluctantly agrees, Scarpia instructs Spoletta to arrange a mock execution at dawn  After that, the lovers will be free to leave with a safe conduct provided by him.

Victorious at last, Scarpia rushes into Tosca's embrace, and finds only death on the blade of a knife.

Act Three

Dawn.  The Castel Sant'Angelo.

A shepherd boy sings as his flock passes by.  As Cavaradossi, having bribed his jailer, writes a last letter to Tosca, his composure breaks down.

Suddenly, Tosca arrives, revealing Scarpia's death and the impending mock execution.  Spoletta and the firing squad enter.  The lovers are confident = Tosca even instructs Mario how to act - but Scarpia plays the final trick: Mario's death is for real.  As Scarpia's murder is discovered, Tosca leaps to her own death.

 

Franciska's Review:

This was my first 'real' opera experience and it was absolutely everything it promised to be: power, passion, torture, betrayal, and murder.  The story so beautifully told by the immensely talented cast had me captivated from start to finish.

Thanks to the English surtitles we were able to follow the Italian libretto and fully appreciate the humour (of which there was a fair amount!).

We sat in the circle with uninterrupted views of the entire stage ~ the set at once simple, yet effective. 

The costuming was just perfect ~ especially that of Tosca, from the fiery red of her coat in Act One depicting her passionate and feisty nature, to the exquisite and regal blue gown in Act Two, and finally the subdued greys as she loses her lover and plunges to her death in Act Three.

We also had the pleasure of being able to see not only the conductor, but most of the orchestra too.  If I have any complaints at all, it was not knowing where to look ~ from the singers, to the musicians, and the surtitles.

But seriously, I absolutely loved everything about the opera: the soulful music; the impassioned acting; the majestic sets; the exquisite costumes; the romantic lighting; the witty humour; the thrilling story; and the magic that is theatre.  I'm definitely in love with opera and can't wait to go again.

Next on my wish list: Sydney Opera House!

 

Luciano Pavarotti singing E lucevan le stelle:

The stars seemed to shimmer
The sweet scents of the garden,
The creaking gate seemed to whisper,
And a footstep skimmed over the sand.
Then she came in, so fragrant,
And fell into my arms!
Oh! sweet kisses, oh, languorous caresses,
While I, trembling, was searching
For her features, concealed by her mantle.
My dream of love faded away, for good!
Everything's gone now.
I'm dying hopeless, desperate!
And never before have I loved life like this!
And never before have I loved life like this!

 

Angela Gheorghiu singing Vissi d'arte:

I lived for my art, I lived for love,
I never did harm to a living soul!
With a secret hand
I relieved as many misfortunes as I knew of.
Always with true faith
my prayer
rose to the holy shrines.
Always with true faith
I gave flowers to the altar.
In the hour of grief
why, why, o Lord,
why do you reward me thus?
I gave jewels for the Madonna’s mantle,
and I gave my song to the stars, to heaven,
which smiled with more beauty.
In the hour of grief
why, why, o Lord,
ah, why do you reward me thus?