TOSCA By Giacomo Puccini, directed by Paul Curran (Canadian Opera Company). At the Four Seasons Centre (145 Queen West). To February 23. $20-$275. 416-363-8231. Rating: NN
A shabby little shocker? That’s how one writer described Puccini’s Tosca, but if done well, it holds the stage with its melodies and melodrama. Too bad the Canadian Opera Company’s version teases rather than triumphs.
The piece offers a typical operatic triangle: soprano Tosca loves tenor Cavaradossi; villainous baritone Scarpia lusts after Tosca and tries to eliminate Cavaradossi. After several hours of flirtation, sadism, declarations of love and offstage torture, all three are dead.
But it’s done to such rapturous music that you forget the sometimes silly plot. Richard Buckley gets a powerful sound out of the COC orchestra, though occasionally he drowns out the singers, and much of the vocal work is good. Both Eszter Sümegi’s Tosca and Mikhail Agafonov’s Cavaradossi are full-voiced – she has an unfortunate beat when she pushes her notes – but Alan Opie’s Scarpia doesn’t always project above the orchestral sound.
Director Paul Curran puts some fine detail work into the first act – the scattered candles when Angelotti (Andrew Stewart) searches desperately for a key, the comic Sacristan’s (Robert Pomakov) constant genuflections, Tosca’s disgust at touching Scarpia’s hand – so only in the second act do you realize that the central figures are largely dull.
Only Opie offers any believable feeling, and there’s no emotional connection at all among the three principals. Without emotion, a theatrical work of this kind is a writeoff. In opera, at least a well-sung one like this, you can close your eyes and listen to the music. That’d be a shame here, though, for Kevin Knight’s design for the first two acts is elegant and attractive.