Review: Tosca, by Scottish Opera

Opera

Tosca

Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Various dates until Saturday,

then touring until June 9

Review by Mark Brown

As Scottish Opera approaches its 50th anniversary next month, it revives one of its best known productions, Anthony Besch’s 1980 staging of Puccini’s Tosca. In this, its seventh revival, directed by Jonathan Cocker, it has lost none of its power.

Besch’s central conceptual contention, that the political and religious turmoil of Napoleonic Rome is transferable to the war torn Italy of Benito Mussolini, is a strong one. The Roman settings of the piece remain, spectacularly, in Peter Rice’s original designs, as Puccini designated them.

When the escaped political prisoner, Angelloti, places his life in the hands of the painter Cavaradossi (lover of the titular opera diva, Tosca), there is an inescapable logic to the relocation in time. The vicious and lascivious police chief, Baron Scarpia (performed here by the excellent English baritone Robert Poulton), is every inch the untouchable, high ranking fascist. The dreams of liberty sung of by Cavaradossi (played movingly by young Spanish tenor José Ferrero) transfer perfectly to the early 1940s.

Of course, Tosca is an opera in which the urge for political freedom is tied inextricably to the great passion between Cavaradossi and the eponymous heroine. Nowhere is that combination more powerfully expressed than in the great arias for Tosca (“I lived for art, I lived for love”) and Cavaradossi (“And the stars shone”). English soprano Susannah Glanville, her Tosca facing the choice of giving herself to the lecherous Scarpia or watching her beloved Cavaradossi be executed, sings the former with a spine-tingling anguish. When Ferrero, his Cavaradossi surrounded by fascist soldiers on the roof of the Castel Sant’Angelo, sings “never have I loved life so much”, he encapsulates the drive to political and romantic liberty which energises both Puccini’s opera and this deservedly revived production.

For tour information visit: www.scottishopera.org.uk

This review was originally published in the Sunday Herald on May 6, 2012

© Mark Brown

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