I went to Rome on Friday night. Tulsa Opera's Tosca opened to a nearly full, very appreciative house.
I previewed Tosca in last week's (Oct. 4-10) issue, but, believe me, seeing it was better than reading about it could ever hope to be.
The opera, written by Giacomo Puccini, is set in the ancient and historical churches and palazzos of Rome, and the set, designed by Jean-Pierre Ponelle and borrowed from the San Diego Opera, is exquisite and almost as breathtaking as the singers in front of it.
Hungarian soprano Isabella Mederi is Floria Tosca, a beautiful and talented opera singer in 19th century Rome and the lover of Italian painter Mario Cavaradossi, sung by Icelandic tenor Johann Valdimarsson.
The story is set during the Battle of Marengo, and Cavaradossi, a liberal, is on the side of Napoleon. His friend and ally, Cesare Angelotti (Jeffrey Buchman) has recently escaped the Castle of Sant' Angelo, where he was being kept as a political prisoner. He seeks refuge at the Church of Sant' Andrea della Valle, where his sister has left him a key and a disguise, where he finds Cavadarossi painting and where we the audience find ourselves at the first rise of the curtain.
Cavaradossi gives Angelotti food and refuge, but keeps his presence a secret from Tosca, who is prone to almost outrageous jealousy. When the guards discover Angelotti's escape, though, they begin to search the church for him, and police chief Scarpia, sung by returning Tulsa Opera favorite, baritone Peter Lindskoog, ignites Tosca's jealousy by showing him a fan Angelotti left behind and implying that it belongs to another lover of Cavaradossi's.
Scarpia is, of course, the villain, and a despicable one at that. He lusts after Tosca and wants only to make her his possession. He delights in bending others to his will and getting what he wants.
In the second act, we meet him in his quarters in the Farnese Palace, where he has called Tosca to listen to Cavaradossi being tortured. Cavaradossi has been captured but refuses to divulge Angelotti's whereabouts. Tosca, who cannot bear to hear her lover in pain, tells Scarpia where Angelotti is hiding and also agrees to give herself over to the villain in exchange for Cavaradossi's life.
Scarpia tells Tosca he will create a mock execution scene so it appears publicly that Cavaradossi is killed, but in actuality, he will spare the prisoner's life. He also grants the two lovers a safe-conduct pass to leave the country. Once the safe-conduct is written, though, Tosca plunges a knife into his heart in order to avoid being taken as his lover.
Act three takes place at the Castle of Sant' Angelo, the morning Cavaradossi is to be executed. He bribes the jailer into letting him write a farewell letter to Tosca in what is one of the most beautiful arias of the entire show, "E lucevan le stelle." Cavaradossi reminisces of his love with Tosca and anguishes at the events about to take place.
Suddenly, Tosca appears, with news of Scarpia's murder--by her hand--and their permission to flee the country. She urges Cavaradossi to fake a convincing death, and, when the soldiers leave, they will depart together. She watches as her lover is shot, applauds his good acting, and once the executioners are gone, calls for him to rise and leave with her.
When he doesn't, she realizes Scarpia has deceived her and actually murdered her love. Scarpia's henchmen arrive to arrest her for his murder, but rather than be taken, she leaps from the roof to her death.
Fascinating is the fact that she chooses to kill herself rather than be captured and forced to live without her lover Cavaradossi, but her final words are "Scarpia, we will meet before God."
Wow. What a powerful, dramatic, exciting opera. Puccini's music is marvelous of course, and the singers chosen by Artistic Director Carol Crawford are wonderful.
The three leading singers sung very well throughout the piece, maintaining the high level of energy and emotion needed from the very beginning to the very end of the performance. There was not a moment throughout when you wanted to take your eyes off the stage.
The passion and the emotion of the work were so palpable that you could almost feel your heart leaping around inside your body.
It's a wise decision that Tulsa Opera rotates classic masterpieces like this, from its repertoire, into its season every six to eight years, because they never, never get old. Each time seeing Tosca should be a brand new experience to every viewer, whether you've seen the opera before or not.
Tickets are still on sale for this weekend's performances, Fri., Oct. 12 and Sun., Oct. 14 and are $20-95. Friday's performance begins at 7:30pm and Sunday's at 2:30pm. Both are in the Chapman Music Hall of the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, 110 E. 2nd St. For more information and to purchase tickets, call 596-7111 or visit www.tulspac.com.
And that means the 50 Swats Collective and Nightingale Theater present their annual Halloween show Old Fashioned Poison Candy, every Friday and Saturday of October, beginning at 8pm.
I received my information late because, while I thought the show opened this weekend, it actually opened last weekend. Amber Whitlatch, co-owner of the Nightingale and member of 50 Swats said this year's show is probably the best yet.
If you saw Old Fashioned last year, don't think you're in for the same tricks and treats. The show is new each year, with new writing and some new, some old (in a good way) faces.
Old Fashioned works in the same way most 50 Swats productions do. The show is comprised of monologues and dialogues, all original--some funny, some scary--all Halloween-themed. And it'll be fun to see what this group comes up with to celebrate the haunting holiday. They always have something interesting to say.
I've already made my reservation for this Friday night's show, but you don't necessarily need to call ahead. Just show up to 1416 E. 4th St. at 8pm and have $8 ready. The show will go on every Friday and Saturday through October 27. If you want more information, call 633-8666 or visit www.nightingaletheater.com. Look for a review in next week's issue.
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