Tuesday, November 29

Tosca – Opera House, Manchester

Tosca is an opera in three acts by Italian composer Puccini, structured as a through-composed work, with arias, recitative, choruses and other elements musically woven into a seamless whole. Set in Rome in June 1800, the city is threatened by the advancing army of Napoleon Bonaparte.

In the inside of the church of Sant’ Andrea della Villa, Cesare Angelotti (Eugeniu Ganea), former Consul and now an escaped political prisoner, has taken refuge. He hides on the arrival of a Sacristan (Valeriu Cojocaru) before the painter Mario Cavaradossi (Vitalii Liskovetskyi) appears to continue work on his portrait of Mary Magdalene, based on a blonde-haired woman who is in fact Angelotti’s sister, and he compares her to his dark-haired lover, the singer Floria Tosca (Elena Dee).

Cavaradossi promises to help Angelotti with his escape although he hides again when he hears Tosca arriving. A jealous Tosca demands Cavaradossi explain why the door was locked and who the picture is based upon, but she is reassured by him and departs. As Angelotti and Cavaradossi plan his exit, a cannon shot from the Castle Sant’ Angelo announces the discovery of his escape. The Sacristan re-enters, excited by rumours of Bonaparte’s defeat in battle. Baron Scarpia (Vladimir Dragos), the chief of police, arrives with his henchmen Spoletta (Ruslan Pacatovici) and Sciarrone (Vitalii Cebotari) in search of the escaped prisoner. Tosca returns, and Scarpia plays upon her jealousy over the picture in the hope of discovering Angelotti’s whereabouts. When she leaves to seek her lover, Scarpia has her followed as he vows to win a double prize by bringing Cavaradossi to the gallows and Tosca into his arms.

Forced to tread a delicate line between laughter & lightness and darkness & despair, can Tosca navigate a way through her own hopes and jealous fears and emerge triumphant?

This was an excellent production by the celebrated producer Ellen Kent who also directs, and with conductor Nicolae Dohotaru providing a steady, guiding hand for the Orchestra of the Ukrainian National Opera and Ballet Theatre, the music perfectly reflected the twists and turns of the unfolding drama.

Sung in its original Italian, English surtitles were provided to support the action on stage. Stage Director and Chorus Master Victor Donos excelled with the religious undertones handled perfectly with the chorus in Act I particularly moving. Set construction was outstanding and allowed us to segue between the three acts with ease.

All the cast performed strongly with Dee superb as Tosca, her vocal a delight throughout. Her duets with Liskovetskyi were moving and uplifting in equal measure whilst he also performed strongly on his own. Dragos was the perfect villain, encouraging and enjoying the audience boos at the curtain call, and his powerful interplays with Dee were something to behold. A special mention for Cojocaru who perfectly captured the piety and humour of the Sacristan in the opening act.

The piece is littered with subtle moments of humour which the cast brought to life, much to the audience’s delight, so much so that in spite of the darker aspects of this tale, at the end we all left triumphant with hope in our souls.

Support tonight was provided by Stagecoach Theatre Arts Alwoodley with Leonora Heins featuring as a Shepherd Boy in Act III.  Special thanks to Joanne Johnson for supplying greyhounds from The Greyhound Trust Mersey and Cheshire.

Tosca is touring throughout the UK and Ireland alongside Carmen and Madama Butterfly as part of Senbla, by arrangement with Opera International, Presents an Ellen Kent Production. Further details available at www.senbla.com and www.ellenkent.com

As with all their touring productions, tonight’s performance concluded with the orchestra playing the Ukrainian national anthem and the audience stood as one as we acknowledged the resilience and courage that has played out over recent weeks.

Reviewer: Mark Davoren

Reviewed: 7th April 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★

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