BWW Reviews: Austin Lyric Opera's TOSCA Triumphs

BWW Reviews: Austin Lyric Opera's TOSCA Triumphs
Mardi Byers as Tosca. Photo by Mark Matson.

My apologies to Verdi and Mozart. No one does romance like Puccini. If you were lucky enough to catch Austin Lyric Opera's recent production of Tosca, I assume you'd agree with me. The production is easily among the best productions in ALO's recent history.

For those not familiar with the beloved opera, Tosca is the love story of an opera diva, Floria Tosca, and an artist/political activist, Mario Cavaradossi. When Cavaradossi helps an escaped political prisoner, the evil Baron Scarpia, who lusts after Tosca, sees an opportunity. If Tosca wants to save Cavaradossi, she must give herself to Scarpia. What follows is a great dramatic story of love and betrayal.

Much of the success of ALO's is owed to director Michael Cavanagh and his approach to the material. It's no secret that Tosca is a tragedy. The beloved opera has been, as Cavanagh mentions in his director's notes, criticized for being melodramatic and sometimes over-the-top. Given the major plot points and the unhappy ending, there's really no hiding Tosca's dramatic tone. While Cavanagh never attempts to conceal Tosca's drama, he does make one bold and unexpected move. He highlights moments of comedy. The Act I argument between the jealous Tosca (the wonderful Mardi Byers), and her lover, Mario (the equally superb Scott Piper) is played for laughs. Tosca and Mario equal parts Romeo and Juliet and Will and Ethel. Cavanagh's keen decision to highlight one of the opera's few comedic moments makes the ultimate tragedy all the more tragic. By lifting us and the two main characters up, the farther we all have to fall.

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Jeff Davis Jeff Davis is a graduate of the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television where he obtained his Bachelor's Degree in Theater with an emphasis in Directing.