By Charlize Althea Garcia, Dec. 6, 2022
The LA Opera 2022 season came to an end with Giacomo Puccini’s “Tosca” on Nov.19.
“Tosca,” composed by Puccini and libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, is a romantic tragedy set in June 1800 about Rome’s most celebrated opera singer, Floria Tosca, and her lover, painter Mario Cavaradossi.
Destined for tragedy like any Puccini opera, Tosca and Cavaradossi showcase their love through sacrifice and enduring strength in times of misfortune caused by the antagonist, Scarpia, chief of police who lusts after Tosca.
Tenor Michael Fabiano who played Cavaradossi, anointed the premiere with an air of vitality. I feel it’s already a given that the role of Cavaradossi requires a decent tenor, but Fabiano delivered more than we bargained for. He took the role of Cavaradossi not as a character but as a real person. He didn’t just bring Puccini’s music to life; he revived us in moments of predictability with his stentorian voice. “Recondita armonia” to “E lucevan le stelle” had the audience deviate from the idea of Tosca as the only star attraction.
Angel Blue takes the stage as Floria Tosca, who is a character that I particularly did not take a liking to. Even so, Blue made it irresistible for the audience to fall in love with her. Though she was playing a character, a sense of authenticity lived within her, allowing the audience to feel what Tosca was feeling naturally. “Vissi d’arte” was done with such artistry in both voice and performance. Blue’s performance had the audience approach her with kind eyes and a pitiful heart and at the same time, her voice demanded only admiration.
Puccini, I believe, highlights the tenor in this composition more than he does the soprano. In doing so, he created an affectionate sound to our ears and developed a warmth that followed throughout the story – inevitably desecrating it with the sound of a baritone. Nonetheless, each voice elicited the retrogressed cycle of drama. Complementary to it was passion. Passion, the word of the night, lurked with radiance at every corner: in the music, in the characters and in the story.
The orchestral score for “Tosca” had the same devotion to accompanying the tragedy with passion as the arias and recitatives did. It supplemented arias of Cavaradossi, Tosca and Scarpia with booming theatrics displayed in the brass section and low strings. It encapsulated Tosca’s humility and good nature with sprite melodies in the upper strings and woodwinds. The LA Opera orchestra was conducted by Louis Lohraseb who made his mainstage debut that night.
The set design was engulfed in a palate of pearly ash. Aesthetic overruled timeliness which was done with taste and good judgement. The subdued monochrome stage paired with minimal props defined what an opera written in the 19th century would look like in a place and age that embraces modernity and respects its story’s time period.
Director John Caird was able to balance both the past and the present in his direction of “Tosca.” Paying homage to the originality of the work while simultaneously adding modern touches to the production made the show appealing to the eyes of today’s century.
Puccini’s concept of love was always questionable to me: his idea of how to truly love is to die or to endure tragedy. Is that true? Does it make it seem that what we have in front of us falls short, or does Puccini have this idealistic idea of love that comes from a place of lust. How long can this storyline survive? The storyline, considering this performance was overwhelmed by the virtuosity of the performers and comely production before me.
Feature image courtesy of Cory Weaver
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