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BWW Review: SEATTLE OPERA TOSCA at Home Computer Screens


A Fabulously Dramatic Film of Puccini's Opera

BWW Review: SEATTLE OPERA TOSCA at Home Computer Screens

BWW Review: SEATTLE OPERA TOSCA at Home Computer Screens Sometimes you get the picture of what a performance will be right from its beginning. This was one of those times. Seattle Opera's film of Puccini's Tosca, that can be streamed starting June 25, opened with the escape of political prisoner Cesare Angelotti who was once a friend of Cavaradossi. Angelotti, sung by bass Adam Lau, was exhausted from running, surmounting walls, and crashing through fences. His clothes were tattered and he almost fell into the cooling water of the church's Baptismal Font. In this production, Dan Wallace Miller did not let a single dramatic moment go to waste. He did, however, allow singers room to pursue their vocal art.

Christopher Mumaw designed the realistic production, and most of his scenes resembled the original places in Rome. Liesl Alice Gatcheco costumed the artists in colorful, detailed, period outfits that accurately set the time and place. As Tosca, Alexandra LoBianco looked like a working opera singer wearing a beaded red satin concert gown with a train. Cavaradossi, as interpreted by Dominick Chenes, was the kind of painter women fawn over in his loose shirt and brocade vest over plain pants. Michael Chioldi as Scarpia, the imperious Chief of Police, wore immaculately fitted solid black. Both Scarpia and Cavaradossi wore full wigs of long hair that looked natural in closeups.

Matthew Burns appeared to be a strait-laced zealot of a Sacristan until we saw him sneak a long draught of Cavaradossi's wine. Chenes was a happy man in Act I, although his lover was jealous and struck his painting. His "Recondita Armonia" ("Remembered harmonies") celebrated beautiful women. In contrast, Chioldi sang of Scarpia's desire to capture Tosca and destroy Cavaradossi, stating his case with glorious vocal colors as well as dramatic action. Scarpia was quite right when he said that Tosca made him forget God.

At the beginning of Act II, John Keene's chorus sang a lovely cantata that provided some needed respite from the constant tension. Scarpia bared his malicious personality in Act II when his henchmen failed to catch Angelotti. He made Tosca listen while they tortured Cavaradossi. In her poignant rendition of the aria, "Vissi d'arte" ("I have always lived for art") she noted that she had never sought to harm any living being. After she agreed to spend a night with Scarpia in order to save her lover's life, she realized there was a sharp knife on Scarpia's table. He never expected her stabs and he fell lifeless into a chair at the table. She placed candles on either side of him and put the crucifix she was wearing on the table in front of him as his blood pooled around it.

Cavaradossi was to be shot at dawn, so he sang "E lucevan le stelle" ("the stars are shining") with exquisite resonant tones as he recognized the beauty of his last night on earth. When Tosca realized that he has been shot and she would be executed for Scarpia's murder, she jumped from the top of the Castel Sant' Angelo, leaving many viewers breathless from the drama's constant tension.

Conductor Kazem Abdullah's tempi were a bit on the slow side but he allowed the artists to emote and keep the dramatic tension flowing. He led this excellent orchestra in a fine rendition of Puccini's opera that will allow the world-wide audience to enjoy this lyrical version of Sardou's drama. I enjoyed this dramatic Tosca and think it offers a fascinating contrast to versions of the opera that have fine singing but little of the original drama.

It is only a little more than a week until Seattle Opera's online premiere of Giacomo Puccini's beloved melodrama, Tosca. Enjoy a preview trailer of this production filmed at St. James Cathedral. It features Alexandra LoBianco as the fiery diva Tosca, Dominick Chenes as her lover, Cavaradossi, and Michael Chioldi as the evil Police Chief, Scarpia. The complete opera, Tosca, can be streamed from June 25-27, 2021 for $35.

Photos of Dominick Chenes as Cavaradossi and of Alexandra LoBianco as Tosca with Michael Chioldi as Scarpia courtesy of Seattle Opera.

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