Opera North opened its 3-night run at Hull New Theatre with its first performance of the tragic and visually stunning opera: Tosca. This was my first ever introduction to what some might say is the ‘acquired’ world of opera. I entered the theatre with an uneasy mind as to whether this would be my ‘thing’, but instantly I was captivated. Drawn in by the sounds of a live orchestra warming up in the pit before the stage and feeling the music swell around me I took my seat ready, waiting in excited anticipation.
Written by composer Puccini and first performed in Rome in January 1900. Tosca is a tragic tale of passionate love, jealousy, an escaped prisoner, deception, and murder. Set in a prepossessing Roman Catholic church with the eyes the Virgin Madonna watching over the stage as the tragedy unfolds before her. The opera opens with the flight of Angelotti, an escaped political prisoner. Seeking refuge in a church where he is protected by Cavaradossi, a local artist who is also the lover of the famous and beautiful singer Tosca.
As the opera began, a single beam of light fell from the ceiling to the orchestra pit, lighting up the conductor. Suddenly the music boomed, and the curtain was up. For me, the live orchestra stole the show. Scoring and driving the story forward with complex and emotionally charged pieces of music, that you could really feel in every part of your body.
Throughout this production, Susannah Glanville portrayal of the passionate and courageous lover Tosca was captivating. Glanville portrayed Tosca’s competing emotions brilliantly. She was the jealous lover in the first act, the calculating and passionate woman trying to save her betrothed in the second act, and finally the heart-broken lover who succumbs to suicide to in the tragic third act. In contrast, Roberts Hayward performance as the Baron Scarpia was dominating and powerful. His voice combined with his cold, yet threatening stage presences was a thrill to watch; especially when he met his gruesome end at the hands of Tosca.
The set design of this production was incredible. The huge dome of the church loomed over the stage, with a hand-painted mural of the Virgin Madonna watching over the actors. It was fascinating to watch as the dome moved positions for each act. Initially suspend up high in the heavens of the theatre before falling lower and lower between each act, mirroring the downfall of the lovers. Alongside this, the traditional music, language and set was married with contemporary costumes, laptops, torches and guns that brought an interesting juxtaposition to the production overall. I found it particularly interesting to listen to the old language and original music as the production was brought to a contemporary audience with the use of modern costumes and props.
Opera North’s performance of Tosca, was a spectacle to watch and listen too. The orchestra, the powerful acting and the beautiful ornate set created an emotionally charged and captivating performance. Having entered the theatre weary of what to expect, this 3 Act performance of Tosca was truly spectacular, emotional and dramatic!
Don’t miss the final performance of Opera North: Tosca on Saturday 3rd November. Tickets start at just £15.