Tosca – Bord Gáis Energy Theatre – Review
by Gearoid O’Byrne
Dates: 11 – 17 July 2022
Irish National Opera presents Puccini’s Tosca in partnership with Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, Dublin, sung in Italian with English surtitles and running till Sunday 17th July 2022.
An opera in three acts by Italian composer Giacomo Puccini (Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa), Tosca premiered at the Costanzi Theatre in Rome on January 14, 1900. The opera is set in the same city between noon of June 17, 1800, and dawn of the following day. Based on French playwright Victorien Sardou’s popular play La Tosca (1887), it concerns revolution, political suppression, and criminal abuse of authority figures in Rome in the days of the Napoleonic wars. This is an operatic thriller that boasts some of the composer’s greatest scenes and most touching arias.
Tosca, a highly-strung, big-hearted singer, is possessive about her lover. He, the painter Cavaradossi, is under political suspicion and is tortured by Scarpia the corrupt chief of police. Scarpia wants to bed Tosca, and deceives her so cleverly that his double-cross still works, even after she has killed him. This is one of the most lethal of operas. None of the central characters makes it to the end alive, hero or villain. It could be seen as a thrilling melodrama however Puccini took an overtly theatrical tale and made it astonishingly moving.
INO’s production features a stellar cast. Cavaradossi is played by tenor Dimitri Pittas who has performed on leading opera stages throughout the United States and Europe. He has a thrilling and powerful voice first revealed in the aria “Recondita armonia” in act 1. His “E lucevan le stelle” in act 3 was equally moving. Bass baritone Tómas Tómasson was excellent as the wicked Scarpia, exuding a suitable chilling persona. Our own Sinéad Campbell Wallace shone onstage as the beautiful Tosca and her great “Vissi d’arte” in act 2 was spellbinding. They were ably supported by John Molloy as Angelotti, Graeme Danby as the Sacristan, Michael Bell as Spoletta, Rory Dunne as Sciarrone and Fionn Ó hAlmhain as the Jailer. A special mention for Joe Dwyer as the ethereal Shepherd Boy.
Tosca is conducted by Nil Venditti and directed by Michael Gieleta, with set and costume design by Gary McCann. The Irish National Opera Orchestra did a fantastic job and I especially liked the bells ringing from different parts of the auditorium in act 3. The Irish National Opera Chorus and Children’s Chorus were in fine voice and the ”Te Deum” at the end of act 1 sent chills down one’s spine.
The sets were superb. In act 1, the church of Sant’Andrea della Valle is excellently crafted. The second act is set in Scarpia’s apartments in the Palazzo Farnese but features an imaginative revolving stage that alternates with the dingy prison cell where Cavaradossi is being tortured. The final act at Castel Sant’Angelo is dramatically staged with the colossal statue of Archangel Michael beside the battlements giving great scale to Tosca’s final denouement.
Overall, this is an exciting, passionate and richly staged production and the standing ovation at its finish was richly deserved. We are indeed fortunate to be able to enjoy opera of this standing in Dublin. See it if you can.