BWW Review: Canadian Opera Company's TOSCA is a Total Triumph
From the moment the orchestra plays its first note, the production is pure magic. The Canadian Opera Company (COC) ends their 2016/2017 season with a bang, with Puccini's TOSCA. Gorgeous music, grand sets and gripping performances coexist seamlessly in Paul Curran's production of one of opera's most famous tragic love stories.
TOSCA follows two young lovers, plagued by jealousy and manipulated by villainous desire. Paul Curran's direction zones in on these emotional, human conditions. Yes, there is a political and religious subtext to the story, but Curran highlights the personal influences at work in the opera. In this production, both heroes and villains are ultimately human. We recognize them, they are completely believable, and they never feel removed from our contemporary emotional perspective.
The action unravels on a larger than life set, designed by Kevin Knight. Slanted flooring toys with your perception, giving an impressive impression of space. Yet, it's designed in a way that enhances the intimate interactions between the characters. Gorgeous marble pillars and diamond-patterned tiles work their magic, transporting you to Rome, 1800. The lighting, designed by David Martin Jacques, helps with this, creating epically beautiful moments on the stage (the use of shadows is especially memorable). Knight and Jacques have created something so impressive, that the beginning of every act is met with appreciative gasps from the audience.
Adrianne Pieczonka is as perfect a Tosca as one could ever hope for. She sings the role with a full, round sound - her voice spinning with focused resonance, allowing it to fill the entire theatre. Pieczonka sings with such ease, her voice expressing everything from delicate devotion in her Act I "Non la sospiri, la nostra casetta", to the outbursts of desperation in her brilliantly performed, "Vissi d'arte".
Marcelo Puente (Cavaradossi) and Markus Marquardt (Scarpia) are making their COC debuts in this production - and we are lucky to have them. Puente is captivating as the extremely handsome painter, Mario Cavaradossi. His voice is well-suited for the role, with a warm timbre and quick vibrato. Puente did not disappoint with Cavaradossi's much anticipated Act III aria "E lucevan le stelle", delivering the power and misery that the music begs for. Marquardt's Scarpia is the perfect villain, opening up in the second act and dominating the stage with menacing presence. Marquardt's voice conveys the strength and authority that his character demands. I particularly enjoyed how well his voice blended with Pieczonka's.
These incredible performances are guided by the supremely talented, Maestra Keri-Lynn Wilson. Wilson really understands how to effectively conduct Puccini (her work in the Puccini Festival in Torre del Lago earned her the seal of approval from Puccini's granddaughter). Wilson's conducting communicates passion, shapes suspense and heightens the drama onstage. Personally, I think (under Wilson's baton) the orchestra sounded the best I've ever heard them.
The harmonious collaboration of all of this work is what brings the magic to this production of TOSCA. There are two exceptional casts taking on the lead roles, which should present two completely unique perspectives - the perfect excuse to see it twice!
The Canadian Opera Company's production of TOSCA runs until May 20th, 2017 at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 145 Queen St W, Toronto, ON. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.coc.ca
Adrianne Pieczonka (Tosca), Marcelo Puente (Cavaradossi), Markus Marquardt (Scarpia) will perform May 4, 6, 9, 12, 17, 19
Keri Alkema (Tosca), Kamen Chanev (Cavaradossi), Craig Colclough (Scarpia) will perform May 7, 11, 14, 18, 20
(Photo Credit: Michael Cooper)