in Rome, 1800, the first impression I got of Tosca was of a world
dominated by religion and tradition, where only saints or sinners
exist, virgins or whores, villains or heroes. The Opera seems set
in a bygone romantic age. The opening set is inside a church, with
imposing religious images on the stone walls and tall gates. It
struck me as boxed and uninspiring.
new to Opera, I wasn't sure what to make of it at first. Although
the singing was strong, and the orchestra very impressive, I was
distanced from all the action on stage, I didn't feel emotionally
involved in what was going on. The characters were very intense,
and everything was melodramatic, but it didn't touch me. After the
first act I thought I had it sussed: a predictable love triangle
with a villain and a heroic convict on the run.
the second act proved more interesting. Set in the Farnese Palace,
Tosca (played by Natalia Margarit) is blackmailed by Scarpia. She
sings a beautiful solo piece while sitting on the floor in despair,
while her lover is tortured in the next room. After this, the stylised
and melodramatic opera style made more sense. The loud singing from
the characters had an unexpected emotional power to it - I had only
the third act, (set on the battlements of Castle Sant’Angelo) I
am really enjoying things, and also sensing the suffering that each
character going through, in a very human way. The tragic ending
is a genuine surprise to me, not knowing the Opera, and the whole
thing climaxes in a way that you cannot fail to be gripped by.
to everyone out there who is new to Opera, I think this is a good
one to start with. It takes a while to get into, and may seem like
double dutch at first, (the subtitles helped), but the emotional
power gets pretty strong quite unexpectedly. Very satisfying.