Tosca: Opera In Three Acts

By Giacomo Puccini
Presented by Ellen Kent Opera
Libretto Luigi Illica,Giuseppe Giacoso
Liverpool Empire
22nd March 2016

Alyona Kistenyova - Floria Tosca, Celebrated Opera Singer (Soprano)
Vitalii Listenyova - Mario Cavaradossi, Artist (Tenor)
Vladimir Dragos - Baron Scarpia, Chief of Police (Baritone)
Vasyl Vasylenko - Conductor

Reviewed by Joe Coventry

Rome 1800. Political tensions are running high. Napoleon seeks to undermine the old order and things will never be the same again. As the lights dim three dark and threatening notes in the orchestra pit foreshadow what is to come.....

Cavaradossi is blissfully at work on a portrait of The Madonna inside the Church of San't Andrea della Valle, when in bursts an escaped prisoner Ancellotti (bass), brother to the woman in the picture and seeking sanctuary from his friend. The painter offers food and a place to hide. When Tosca is heard outside the painter is alone again on his scaffolding, as she enters seeking a liaison with her lover, whilst admonishing him for not giving the portrait her own dark eyes. In song he mollifies her before leaving.

Hot on the trail the villainous Scarpia enters to question the Sacristan on events. He sows the seeds of doubt in Tosca's mind about her lover's affiliation, at the same time turning his own nefarious thoughts towards her. Act One closes with Church and State singing a Te Deum 'Tosca You Make Me Forget Even God!' in a darkly ominous chorus.

Strangely Tosca's stand out aria Vissi D'arte ('I Lived For Art'), was the only one to receive spontaneous applause, as she repulsed Scarpia's advances in the Palazzo Farnesse. That is until she hears her lover being tortured after his capture in the search for the now dead fugitive. She will submit to the Police Chief's wishes if Caravadossi is given safe conduct in writing. He accedes to this by promising a sham firing squad execution, upon which he is stabbed through the heart; 'Tosca's Kiss! she hisses.'

Act Three has the painter soliloquising in the death cell before his heartrending aria 'E Lucevan Le Stelle' (And The Stars Shone') expressing his love for the diva who arrives with the pardon; but treachery is at hand. 'Ecco Un Artista!', (What An Actor!) she intones before realising the fired bullets were real. As Police Agent Spollettan n (tenor), enters on her own case, she throws herself of the Castle Sant' Angelo ramparts to complete the tragedy.

That's the bones of an increasingly engrossing evening, but what of the performance?

As the musicians accclimatised to the demands of the huge stage and auditorium the crowd of around 1000, for Artistic Director and Producer Ellen Kent's latest offering to hit Liverpool, warmed well to her Touring Company's combined efforts while listening to some of the most popular arias and music in the Operatic cannon.

Tonight's leading lady and her idealistic lover both performed their dramatic roles and sang well, the soprano looking and sounding every inch the part. The evil baritone perhaps not totally producing all that the thuggish roll demanded of him.

Mention too must go to the concave stage set design which was effective in representing interior and external scenarios with little rearrangement or adornment. However the blood red drapes, wine, tablecloth and the diva's stunning ill-fated assignation dress in the dining room encounter presaged the emotional tumult to come. St Peter's Dome added depth to the battlement wall finale while the whole cast was able to easily fit into the serried ranks in the the collective church scene.

The surtitles, while not everyone's glass of Valpolicella ensured that no-one missed out on the plot if they could not get to the bar in the intervals.

All in all the performance rattled along capturing the action and most pertinent recitative. If you had payed you would have got your money's worth and there is plenty of time still to see this production as it continues to bring opera to an increasing number of people around the UK. As the cast, including tonight's conductor took the applause contented murmurs proceeded me to the exit. See you next year.

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