REVIEW: Tosca (Lyric Opera)

Puccini’s Violent Love Story Masterpiece

  tosca8

Lyric Opera Presents

Tosca

By Giacomo Puccini
Libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica
Conducted by Stephen Lord
Stage directed by Paula Suozzi
Thru January 29th (ticket info)

By Katy Walsh

tosca11Torture, murder, execution, suicide, despite the violent nature of this warhorse opera, Tosca contributes some of the most familiar romantic opera melodies to the mainstream. The Lyric Opera presents Tosca by Giacomo Puccini. Performed in Italian with projected English supertitles (by Francis Rizzo), Tosca is based on Victorien Sardou’s play La Tosca. Floria Tosca is a celebrated opera singer in Rome. Her lover, Mario Cavaradossi, aids an escaped political prisoner and is arrested. The villainous chief of police, Scarpia, coerces Tosca into saving Cavaradossi with promises of sexual favors. Betrayal ensues. No one gets what they want… except the audience. From the first aria of Recondita armonia to the duet Amaro sol per te, the memorable harmonies plunge the audience into an all consuming passionate love story, best experienced as an opera.

The Lyric opened its 2009/2010 season with this crowd pleaser and remounted it this month for a three week winter escape. The principals have changed for this mini-run but the sets and the huge supporting cast are the same. Act I in the Church of Sant’ Andrea della Valle ends with a visual explosion. The house of worship is already decked out with ornate details befitting the 1800’s (set designer Renzo Mongiardino). Cue the Chicago Children’s Choir, several clergy and church-goers in various liturgical vestments and Sunday best finery (costumes by Marcel Escoffier), the 100+ people on stage are merely a spectacular backdrop for Scarpia’s vow to destroy Cavaradossi and have Tosca. It’s these elaborate dramatic moments that elicit the inaudible oohs and aahs usually reserved for fireworks.

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Even without the stimulation of extensive sets and costumes, Tosca is still one of Puccini’s masterpieces, sung to perfection by the newest principals. Violeta Urmana (Tosca) sings magnificently through a range of emotions; irrational, jealousy, demanding, enraged, passionate, and desperate. Marco Berti (Cavaradossi) is the lover of beautiful things with unfortunate timing that leads to trouble with his diva girlfriend, an escaped prisoner, and evil police chief. Lucio Gallo is the creepy Baron Scarpia. He delivers wicked lyrics (translated) like “I lust, and then I pursue the one I desire, I satisfy myself, and throw her away” and “How you despise me but that is just how I want you.” Certainly, every woman in the audience wants to stab this guy – but, of course, not until after the final note of Lyric’s exquisite Tosca is heard.

Rating: ★★★½

SPOILER ALERT: Tosca committing suicide is questionable. The dramatic moment is lost behind a prison wall as if she is just escaping. But maybe that’s the Lyric Opera twist, Tosca finally gets a happy ending. Tosca escapes to sing again!

Note: All pictures by Dan Rest

 

 

Stars of the Opera

Tosca

Deborah Voigt
Sept. & Oct.

Deborah Voigt

Violeta Urmana
Jan.

Violeta Urmana

Cavaradossi

Vladimir Galouzine
Sept. & Oct.

Vladimir Galouzine

Marco Berti
Jan.

Marco Berti

Scarpia

James Morris
Sept. & Oct.

James Morris

Lucio Gallo
Jan.

Lucio Gallo


WAITING FOR THE SHOW

A Chicago winter isn’t the best season for exploring downtown dining options on a Sunday afternoon. The brutal cold wind sent me in a beeline for the opera house. A nearby Argo Tea (corner of Madison and Franklin) served as a warming station but failed to offer any substantial brunch choices. I decided to once again dine at Florian Bistro . The third floor café is available for the performance ticket holders only. I arrived on the third floor to the lined up matinee crowd that also failed to locate a restaurant en route. With an announced fifteen minute wait, I decide to try out the Sarah and Peer Pedersen room on the main floor. Also enjoying a bustling brunch, the Pedersen Room takes my name and seats me immediately at the bar. The Pedersen Room is more upscale and gourmet than the bistro alternative. For $28, it’s a four course prix-fixe meal. I could choose from four options in each of the course categories: appetizer, starter, entrée, and dessert. Unfortunately, I am more in the mood for soup and salad than chicken hazelnut pate and lemon sole. I apologize to the friendly bartender and host and return to the third floor. Although smaller, the bistro still has a line. This time, however, the host calls out my name. I respond. He has a seat for me at the bar. The Pedersen host let the bistro host know that I was returning to their area. Nice touch on service! I order the breast of chicken on sourdough bread with Granny Smith apple and whipped boursin cheese and a cup of hot tea. The bread seems a tad stale so I opt for eating just the insides of the sandwich which are a little bland. Although the food is only adequate, the service is exceptionally efficient. Next show, I’ll ensure I arrive at the Lyric in a prix-fixe kind of mood.

2 Responses

  1. […] out the rest of the review at the Chicago Theatre Blog Technorati Tags: Review Tosca,Lyric Opera of Chicago,Puccini,Bistro Florian,Sarah and Peer […]

  2. […] His sense of theatre and drama are incomparable. He composed the lush and sweeping tragedies Tosca (recently produced at Lyric ★★★½) and Madama Butterfly. His works infuse humor, irony, and a wonderful sexiness […]

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