Review: Cape Town Opera's TOSCA is Lush and Transportive

TOSCA's final show in Cape Town is on 17 September.

By: Sep. 17, 2023
Review: Cape Town Opera's TOSCA is Lush and Transportive

After a successful run in Johannesburg at the Nelson Mandela Theatre earlier this year, TOSCA graced the Artscape Opera House in Cape Town this September. Consisting of three acts, Puccini’s TOSCA is a tale of love, jealousy, and political intrigue. The opera is set in Italy amidst the country’s political turmoil in the 1800s. The action is incited when Angelotti, an escaped political prisoner, escapes prison and seeks the help of Cavaradossi, an artist. Consequently, Cavaradossi’s lover, a singer named Tosca, suspects that he is being unfaithful. The police chief Scarpia, who lusts after Tosca, seeks to capture Cavaradossi and force Tosca to be with him.

TOSCA is a fantastic entry-level opera for those who are intimidated by the genre. The story is simple, there are only a few central characters, and the music relates directly to the action on stage. Additionally, Cape Town Opera’s productions are always highly accessible. With its clear-cut performances, engaging direction, and excellent programme; TOSCA offers an experience that is appreciatively welcoming to those who might be less versed in the genre. However, this is never at the expense of the production’s quality. From its lush sets to its layered music, TOSCA is an unforgettable and Moving Theatre experience.

The show consists of three acts, each act tied to a specific location. The location for each act is gorgeous and transportive - the interior of the church in the first act conveys the magic one falls in love with as a child when attending your first theatre show. The design is enhanced by projections that mostly serve to fill in the background in the second and third acts. All the elements of the production relate directly to each other. The music is reflected in the physical stage action, the set pieces with the contents of a scene - there is no room for obscurity in the high-stakes of this opera.

The cast of TOSCA conveys the emotional journeys of their characters with such clarity - one never feels like you’ve lost your footing in the rich viewing experience. Lukhanyo Moyake shines on stage as Cavaradossi - his charisma makes the viewer invested in his fate, making the ending devastatingly effective. Nobulumko Mngxekeza roots the show with her layered performance as Tosca. She is spicy, swooning, funny, and tragic all at once. Tosca is no typical damsel in distress - she has a satisfying agency that is reflected in Nobulumko’s empowered performance. Conroy Scott swaggers onstage as Scarpia. His characterisation is so effective that the despicable character remains imprinted in one’s mind until long after the curtains close.

The dynamics between the characters are conveyed with lucid precision - a testament to Magdalene Minnaar’s expert direction. This melds beautifully with the music, which is conducted by Björn Bantock. Moreover, it is striking how a European opera set in the 19th century illuminates issues present in South Africa today. The creators of this production manage to lift moments and conflict from Puccini’s TOSCA that hit home in a heartbreaking way. The elements of bigotry, a country in a volatile state, corrupted power, sexual violence, and political imprisonment all serve to remind us of issues that continue to haunt our country, awaiting its day of reckoning.

This is only highlighted by a diverse cast of local talent, who deliver a calibre of world-class artistry. The work that Cape Town Opera is doing is invaluable, giving a platform for South African talent in a way that is accessible to local audiences - nourishing our country’s cultural wealth on all sides. What a privilege it is to have Cape Town Opera right on our doorstep.

TOSCA's final show in Cape Town is on 17 September.

Tickets are available at the link below.

Support Cape Town Opera! Keep an eye out for their next productions here.


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