Tosca is a classic and returns to the great stages more regularly than most operas. After writing my university dissertation on the topic and performing as the ‘Shepherd Boy’ as a child, I have a great fondness for this Puccini masterpiece. And so, when the invitation pinging into my inbox, I immediately knew I had to clear my diary for the occasion of opening night.
We took our seats (wonderfully central in the stalls) and my friend asked me to outline the narrative. I struggled to offer up anything comprehensive, despite once studying the score in detail. The truth is, this opera is not about the story so much, it is the all-consuming music which captivates the audience. For this Catherine Malfitano revival at the ENO the cast were lead by revival director Donna Stirrup and Oleg Caetani conducts the confident and boisterous orchestra.
As the overture blasted out from the pit I was instantly entranced, and the worries from the day melted away. I was relieved to see the period set as it always unhinges me a bit to see classics set in the modern day. The creative team, comprising of designer Frank Philip Schlössmann, costume designer Gideon Davey and lighting designer David Martin Jacques did a great job… setting a dramatic and atmospheric scene for the turbulent love story.
Welsh tenor Gwyn Hughes Jones reprises his role as Cavaradossi, and the part feels very safe in his hands. Gwyn’s voice is powerful with a velvety rich tone, it is a pleasure to listen to from start to finish. He is matched by the alluring American singer Keri Alkema as Tosca, whose vocals are bold and beautiful though her spoken voice is more difficult to understand. Craig Colclough is suitably gleeful and chilling as Scarpia, though the volume of his voice is rather lack-lustre in comparison to the leading couple.
This acclaimed rendition of Tosca is powerful to watch, and wonderful to feel part of. As Tosca takes her final backwards leap I felt myself breathe out.. this opera is an emotional rollercoaster, but it is a journey I always love from curtain up to lights out.
Tosca opened on Monday 3 October 2016 at 7.30pm for 13 performances – 3, 12, 14, 20, 25 October, 22, 24, 29 November, 1 December at 7.30pm, 8 October at 6.30pm, 22 October, 26 November, 3 December at 3pm.