|Carmen Giannattasio (Tosca) - Marco Vratogna (Scarpia)
Composed by Giacomo Puccini – Libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa
Andrea Battistoni – Directed by John Bell – Revival Director – Matthew Barclay
by Michael Scott-Mitchell – Costumes designed by Teresa Negroponte
Sutherland Theatre – Sydney Opera House – 22nd February to 13th
night performance reviewed by Bill Stephens.
|Diago Torre (Cavaradossi) - Carmen Giannattasio (Tosca)
One of the
jewels in the Opera Australia repertoire, along with Elijah Moshinsky’s “La
Traviata”, Gale Edwards’ “La Boheme”, and Graeme Murphy’s “The Merry Widow” is
John Bell’s “Tosca”, a perfect blending of direction and design which actually
enhances the composers intention’s by making them accessible and relevant to
version of “Tosca”, Bell has moved the action from the 1800’s to Fascist Rome
during the German occupation in 1943. It’s a period that is familiar to most of
the audience either from personal experience or from media. Each of the three acts
is set in a location that still exists today, including a wondrous reproduction
by Michael Scott-Mitchell of the spectacular Sant’Andrea della Valle Church in
which the first scene takes place. Bell provides each act with a stunning
visual equivalent for each of Puccini’s masterful musical finales.
|"Te Deum" - Marco Vratogna (Scapia) centre.
first act it is the unfurling of the red swastika flags by Scarpia’s storm
troopers during the ravishingly sung “Te Deum” when the assembled congregation
is cowered into raising their arms in the Nazi salute rather than making the
customary sign of the cross.
act ends with Tosca defiantly covering Scarpia’s body with a similar swastika
flag before leaving through the huge doors to carry out her plan to rescue her
lover, Cavaradossi, which she negotiated with Scarpia before stabbing him to
death. Tosca’s own final act death scene which brings the opera to its
conclusion is as shocking as it is inevitable, leaving the audience stunned
into silence as the final curtain descends.
Within this clever staging Bell has left room for each singer to bring individual characterisations to their roles, and one of the many pleasures of this production is experiencing how each singer seizes this opportunity.
Since making her role debut in “Tosca” for San Francisco Opera, Carmen Giannattasio has quickly established herself as a leading interpreter of the role, admired as much for her ability to emerge herself in her interpretation as for her lustrous soprano. With her finely nuanced performance for her Australian debut in the Sydney Opera House, Giannattasio provided a compelling demonstration as to why this is so.
She is warm,
almost playful in the first act as she insists that Cavaradossi change his
painting to ease her suspicions that he may be having an affair, despite his
protests to the contrary.
|Marco Vrotogna (Scarpia) - Carmen Giannattasio (Tosca)
contrast during the second act after discovering the real reason behind
Scarpia’s invitation, she engages in fiery exchanges with him, demanding he stop
the torture of Cavaradossi, before collapsing in devastation at the realisation
that she has unwittingly betrayed of her lover, leading into the famous “Vissi
de Arte” (“I lived for Art”) which she commenced slumped on the floor, almost
prostrate in grief. As the aria progressed she rose slowly, meticulously shaping
each phrase. The audience held its breath throughout this aria until, at the climax,
it could hold back no longer demonstrating its approval with loud cheers and
his acclaimed 2018 Opera Australia performance as Scarpia, baritone Marco
Vratogna matched Giannattasio in intensity every step of the way. From the
moment he enters at the end of the first act, Vratogna oozes corruption, dominating
the stage with his swarthy good looks, commanding baritone and arrogant swagger.
|Alexander Hargreaves (Sciarrone) - Marco Vratogna (Scarpia) - Diego Torre (Cavaradossi)
contrasting the venal bombast of Vrotogna, but perfectly complimenting him
vocally, tenor Diego Torre as Tosca’s lover, the artist, Cavaradossi, completes
a trio of extraordinary singer/actors. Torre
imbues his artist with a gentleness and concern, not only for Tosca, but also for
Angelotti, the escaped political prisoner and brother of his patron, Marchesa
Attavanti. His rendition of the third
act letter song, “And the Stars Shone” was particularly memorable.
these three principal artists, adding lustre to the production, David Parkin
impressed with his powerful baritone as the escapee, Angelotti, Graeme
Macfarlane and Alexander Hargreaves offered thoughtful supportive characterisations
as Scarpia’s henchmen, Spoletta and Sciarrone, and Luke Gabbedy even managed to
inject a little humour with his not-too-fussy Sacristan.
Drawing every ounce of
drama and emotion from Puccini’s magnificent score, The Australian Opera
Orchestra and Chorus, under the energetic conducting of Andrea Battistoni,
garnered further laurels for their
superb performance marking this production a “must see” whether or not you’ve
seen it before.
|Diego Torre (Cavaradossi) - Carmen Giannattasio (Tosca)
Images by Prudence Upton.
This review is also published in Australian Arts Review. www.artsreview.com.au