Royal Opera House, London – until 20 June 2019
The Act One finale of Puccini’s swooping opera has got to be up there on the list of the best theatrical moments ever. The curtain comes down on Scarpia singing his menacing lament and we enter the first interval feeling utterly wrapped up in this glorious production; a feeling which continues until the very end.
Kristine Opolais strongly performs Tosca, with all the shrieks needed and a wonderfully characterised lovers’ tiff in Act One where she is a flirty and and playful diva. At times her vocals feel a little light purely due to the power of Vittorio Grigòlo’s booming Caravadossi but overall the vocals are as soaring and emotive as you desire. Opolais balances the diva and naive sides well both characterisation and vocal performance.
Grigolo gets the passion and vulnerability of Caravadossi to feel natural and all-encompassing at once. The tenor gloriously performs Puccini’s music finding explosive moments at the top of his range, as well as drawing us in with his highly controlled legato and dynamics; ‘E lucevan le stelle’ is a particular, chill-inducing highlight.
Ironically it is a delight to see and hear Bryn Terfel as he brings the cruel, lascivious character of Scarpia to life. Despite being one of the most evil opera villains, one can’t help but want him on stage more as his performance is so strong. The role requires not only serious vocal chops, but serious acting ones as well, Terfel provides both to create a perfect performance.
Paul Brown’s set seems to get more beautiful with each act. Beginning in the Church, there are hints of magic and mystery, as well as small details of the trails being faced in the outside world. Scarpia’s apartment is big, dark and overwhelming. Bookshelves devoid of books and an intimidating statue of a man crushing an opponent are signs of the way this cruel man runs his life. The final act is the barest of them all, featuring sharp angles in muted tones, the emotion is really the focus. Mark Henderson’s lighting helps bring to life the love and hated which seeps through this production.
Alexander Joel’s conducting brings out every ounce of tenderness and cruelty from the divine score as the Royal Opera House Orchestra soar through every moment. Jonathan Kent’s production of Tosca is a must-see and is a perfect introduction to the drama and beauty of opera.
photo credit: Catherine Ashmore