Tosca, ENO, October 2016

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.

Tosca ENO

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.

Tosca, Metropolitan Opera, New York

There are certain opera houses around the world that are a mecca for music fans. The Metropolitan Opera has been an institution in New York City for 128 years, with a great stage that has been home to many legendary singers.

It felt like fate when I found out Puccini’s Tosca would be on at the Met whilst I was in New York. I performed professionally in the opera as a teenager and wrote an extended dissertation on the topic, it is a magnificent work that has won my heart many times over.

Despite the early performance of noon on a Saturday, the auditorium was full and raring to go. Everyone was thrilled to see the stage transformed into the Italian chapel in which the famous story begins.

The music, of course, is totally sublime and sweeps you up with its great soaring motifs and dramatic melodies. Riccardo Frizza does a fine job in the pit leading the strong and passionate Met Orchestra through the stupendous score. Singers Patricia Racette and Roberto Alagna are tremendous as the leading couple, in particular Alagna’s emotional and rich tenor tone suits the kind and loyal role of Cavaradossi. George Gagnidze as Scarpia is chillingly menacing, commanding the stage and gripping the audience with a charismatic malice. Director Paula Williams has chosen to really emphasise the evil and repulsive character adding brilliantly foul nuances to the role.

I loved the grandiose and bold staging of this classic work and, even though I know this opera better than any other, this production made a big impact on me – it displays a new insight into the tragic narrative.

It was a real highlight of my New York trip and I am immensely pleased that I was able to squeeze it into my busy schedule.

Continues until 28 December 2013, book here.