Scottish Opera’s "Tosca"
MURDER, suicide, Fascism and sexual manipulation.
There is nothing like night at the opera to cheer you up.
Weirdly though, in spite of all those ingredients, Scottish Opera’s glorious production of "Tosca" does just that.
With its story of love and evil and as nasty a villain as opera can offer, "Tosca" is one of the most accessible and compelling of operas, and a great introduction for opera newbies, but with its typically high end production values, there are treats beyond the music.
Peter Rice’s intricately detailed sets, are as much a feast for the eye as Puccini’s music is for the ear.
The opening scenes could actually be taking place in a real church, so solid looking is Rice’s work, while the Castel Sant’Angelo rooftop, complete with its massive statue of St Michael, makes an awe inspiring backdrop to the dramatic conclusion.
In moving the story from Puccini’s original Napoleonic setting to Rome in 1943 and the dying days of Mussolini’s regime, this revival of Anthony Bensh’s original 1980 production makes the already sinister villain Scarpia an even more menacing figure, surrounded by lackeys in Fascist uniform or the even more malevolent secret policeman whose sharp suits are redolent of both the Gestapo and the Mafia.
Not that Robert Poulton’s Scarpia needs any extra assistance to be a memorable villain.
There are times when Poulton’s villain is almost beguiling in his evil. When he turns on the charm, given this version’s 1940s setting, it is tempting to see him not just as a contemporary but a near relation of "Casablanca’s" suave Louis Renault, another corrupt police chief who uses his position of power to gain sexual favours.
Beneath Scarpia’s all too thin charming veneer, however, there is real malevolence and a delight in his brutality that fully justifies his brutal end at the hands of the beautiful Tosca.
It is a sure sign of a succulent performance that his curtain call was greeted by boos as well as cheers — and those boos were certainly not because he had failed in his performance.
In contrast Jose Ferrro (not Edgaras Montvidas as the Eden Court brochure suggests) is a heroic and dignified Cavaradossi, giving a powerful and defiant roar of freedom as he is brought into Scarpia’s office to face torture and death. However, he is also tender and moving in the final scene as he prepares to say his final goodbyes to the world and to Tosca.
In the title role, Yorkshire-born Susannah Glanville gives a passionate and technically compelling performance, not just hitting the notes, but getting the emotions right.
Torn between loyalty to her lover Cavaradossi and respecting his loyalty to the fugitive Angelotti (Paul Carey Jones) and faced with an unpalatable offer from Scarpia, her emotional turmoil is entirely believable and sympathetic.
Little wonder this latest Scottish Opera visit to Eden Court was a sell out.
It deserved to be.