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BWW Reviews: Opera Australia Proves Puccini's Tale Of Love and Death Is Timeless With Their Restaging of TOSCA

Tuesday 13th January 2015, Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House

Opera Australia brings Puccini's classic TOSCA to life with John Bell's (Director) resetting which takes the story from the Neapolitan occupied Rome of 1800 during the French Revolutionary wars to Nazi occupied Rome 1943 during World War II.

The Orchestra, under the baton of Andrea Battistoni supports the action on stage with an emotive interpretation of Puccini's score, expressing the light and darkness of this tragic story. Puccini's music paints a picture so even if the viewer doesn't catch all the Italian lyrics (translated to English in Surtitles), the emotions from love, hope, hate, fear, loathing and jealousy are all clear and Puccini's themes for the characters are defined and recognisable.

Bell has chosen to keep the similar locations as the original work with 3 amazing sets by Michael Scott-Mitchell. The ornate baroque church that houses the Attavanti Chapel, Scarpia's simply furnished military office that was probably once a grand residence, since claimed by the military and the prison courtyard of Castel Sant'Angelo mean that the performance is divided into 3 parts with 2 intermissions to allow for set changes as unlike other modern productions, each set is individual.

Amanda Echalaz as Floria Tosca is amazing as the diva-esque lover, driven to jealousy by a painting, and murder by desperation. Echalaz ranges from the lightness of Non la sospiri, la nostra casetta where she sings of a house in the country for the two lovers to jealousy with Quol'occhio after seeing Cavaradossi's painting is of another woman and desperation in Vissi d'arte wondering how someone that was good and peaceful could be driven to murder.

As Mario Cavaradossi, Tosca's lover, Riccardo Massi plays the peaceful artist with sensitivity as he contemplates beauty and his love in Recondita Armonia and the Non la Sospiri, La Nostra Casetta duet with Tosca. He is never as dark and vengeful as the other performers, in keeping with character. Claudio Sgura creates the sleazy, power driven Baron Scarpia with delicious psychopathic looks and dark determination, all foreshadowed by Pucini's ominous signalling of his entrances.

Luke Gabbedy's role may be small but his portrayal of the somewhat jaded Sacristan is hilarious and provides a great counterpoint to Cavaradossi's musings on art and love. Cavaradossi's lighter gentler nature is also contrasted by David Parkin's Cesare Angelotti who has a darker tone in keeping with the hardened and fearful prisoner on the run character.

Costume Designer Teresa Negroponte has helped make the characters easily recognisable from the Sacristan that bears robes but also jumper, jacket and beret, alluding to the idea that he's got his own little flair and ideas and isn't completely bound to the rigidity of his faith and the royal blue of Tosca's day dress reflecting her good, pure qualities that both she and Cavaradossi later sing about whilst still having the flair of a performer and luxury of wealth. Tosca's role as a singer, employed to entertain at a concert is shown off with the stunning, dramatic gown she wears in Act II. It provides a dramatic contrast to Scarpia's stark office, the military uniforms and Cavaradossi's dishevelled state after being arrested.

Bell's interpretation makes TOSCA more accessible to contemporary audiences as the setting is one that audiences can relate to from their knowledge of recent history. Its easy to see that the core issues and ideas that Puccini captured in his work based on Victorien Sardou's LA TOSCA that originated in 1887 are still, unfortunately, relevant in the world and could easily be translated to modern conflicts. Puccini's music and Bell's direction ensure that the story is easy to follow and therefore makes opera more accessible to audiences of all backgrounds.

Unlike Mozart's THE MAGIC FLUTE, also being performed by Opera Australia, Puccini's TOSCA, and also LA BOHEME explore real world situations and the characters are relatable and timeless as demonstrated with both TOSCA and LA BOHEME being staged in different era's to those which Puccini originally presented them. Puccini also provides more drama in his scores, which the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra bring to life admirably, which makes the emotions, suspense, comedy and lightness more obvious and provides better contrasts and texture.

Whether a regular opera goer or first timer, Opera Australia's TOSCA is easy to follow, dramatic, emotion charged and generally a wonderful performance that should not be missed.


Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House

January 13 - March 17 2015

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