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Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Puccini's Tosca at the ENO

The Original Poster for Tosca

The opera Tosca is, above all, an epic love story. Every year you are sure to find Puccini's masterpiece on somewhere, this summer it is being performed at the ENO.

My first encounter with the opera was at the age of 15 when I was given the part of Shepherd Boy (in my case they made it into Shepherd Girl) at Holland Park Opera. The power of the music blew me away, ever since it has been my favourite opera. This time around the music moved me close to tears.

The ENO's production is stunning. The three central protagonists: Tosca, Scarpia and Cavaradossi are all played by singers that seem fully engrossed in their roles; this makes the audience's job to watch and believe very easy. South African singer Amanda Echalaz makes a pretty Floria Tosca, her voice is unfaltering, but it is her acting which particularly impressed me. She is entirely convincing throughout and has genuine chemistry with her leading man. Tosca's suicide which concludes the opera is spectacular with Amanda falling backwards off the rear of the stage with shocking grace.

Julian Gavin who plays Mario Cavaradossi has a wonderfully creamy tenor voice, a pure delight to listen to. It is a difficult role to sing, but he easily hits the notes and manages to fill the entire theatre. The baddie, Baron Scarpia must be a fun part to play, in this production Antony Michaels-Moore takes it on with gleeful terror. Such a nasty character that the audience even booed when he came on to bow.

The set had a Neo-Classical feel that worked well with the production as a whole. Cavaradossi's painting in the first act is an important feature, and it is a shame that it is shown as a strange mosaic type picture, but apart from that the set is appropriate.

Conductor, Edward Gardner does a sterling job with the orchestra, although the music needs little help to sound beautiful. Puccini himself commented, 'Only with emotion can one achieve a triumph that endures' and this is entirely true of Tosca, which I believe has some of the most passionate, overpoweringly emotional music of all time.

Any well known opera is open to great criticism, but I have seen four productions of Tosca in my lifetime, and this is hands down the best. It is on until the 10th July, I promise you won't be disappointed, this is a show not to miss.

Book tickets HERE.

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