Intensely dramatic and theatrical Tosca is one of the great operas and this production certainly does it justice.
From the opening bars the company draws the audience into the emotional tangle between Scarpia the chief of police, Tosca the singer and Cavaradossi the painter. There is also a fourth participant in the Duchess Attavanti who plays a key role in the story but who we never meet.
As with all Puccini operas the music is fluid, moving gracefully from theme to theme and blending beautifully each change in character and emotion.
The performance needs strong characters and here the company scores full marks.
Scarpia is played by Andrey Puzhalin who dominates the set pieces. His portrayal of the ruthless police chief is perfect – a mix of evil and madness and an absolute determination to achieve his aim by whatever means he can find.
And vocally he was just as strong. His Act One aria, where he tells Tosca of his desire and demonstrates his scheming nature and his aim to possess her, set the stage for what was to follow.
His performance was outstanding and he was the evil rock on which the rest of the action is based. Right up to the final curtain he maintained his character until a final smile captivated the audience as he took his final bow.
Cavardossi was played by Lashvili Rostom. His opening aria where he contrasts different types of beauty showed his lyrical approach to the music and the intensity of his singing grew as the performance continued.
While his voice crackled a little at times his overall performance was outstanding and his aria pledging devotion to Tosca was warm and appealing.
In the final act which opens in magical style with a bleak setting, a solo horn, bells and a shepherd boy’s song he sings of his memories of meetings with Tosca and his love. The opening does not prepare the audience for the tragedy which was to follow but it works.
Tosca is played by Larisa Akhmetova and again the power and intensity of her performance added to the overall dramatic impact of the work.
Her singing was rich and powerful and her ability to switch from jealousy to love and from fear to hatred was perfect.
Her murder of Scarpia contrasted beautifully with her despair when she discovers her lover was dead after Scarpia’s final evil act. While her leap from the battlements at the climax of the opera was a little subdued it took nothing away from the overall impact of the evening.
The performance brought to an end the company involvement in this year’s Swansea International Festival but it left lasting memories for the audience.
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