Monday, March 14, 2016

Tosca - MN Opera at the Ordway

Kaduce and Capalbo - (c) Dan Norman
To paraphrase Rodgers and Hammerstein - What a Grand Night of Singing!! Tosca is the second of Puccini's four best known operas, coming between La Boheme and Madame Butterfly, and Turandot (his last opera written about 20 years after the first three). There are other operas that he wrote and many of the arias from these operas are among the worlds most famous. At least two of the best known arias are from Tosca - Vissi d'arte from Act Two, and E lucevan le stelle from Act Three. All that to say that the opera is well known, and well loved, and yet it was my first time seeing a full production.

Powell and ensemble - (c) Dan Norman
The curtain went up to a stunning set of the inside of the church of Sant'Andrea della Valle. There is a large statue of the Madonna rising out of a gorgeous gold halo design set at an angle in the center of the set. Stairs surround this halo, and the projected backdrop is filled with paintings. The synopsis will fill you in on the details of the story which will allow me to focus on the production and performance. Angelotti (as sung by Andrew Lovato) enters through the house and runs on stage to hide in the chapel. All the other characters enter from backstage, or off stage. The first act sets up a lot of story, and is wonderful in showing how jealous Tosca (the glorious and MN Opera favorite Kelly Kaduce) is, as well as how faithful and religious she is. It also shows so clearly how much she and Cavaradossi (the amazing Leonardo Capalbo) are in love. They have a true passionate love for each other that echos through out the rest of the opera. Cavaradossi also hints at how evil Scarpia (as wonderfully sung by Stephen Powell) is and how lustful he is - though he is the chief of police. Towards the end of Act One, there is a Te Deum sung in honor of the defeat of Napoleon. The chorus is on stage, the Te Deum is being sung while Scarpia is singing about how much he wants Tosca and will have her. During this, Tosca leaves and is followed by a police agent - both leaving through the house and out the back door of the house. As gorgeous as this moment was musically, and theatrically - it was an inconsistent moment as those were the only two times the cast walked through the audience. One small misstep in my opinion to an otherwise fantastic production.

Kaduce and Powell - (c) Dan Norman
Act Two takes place in the Farnese Palace, which is police headquarters. The set is a dark set, multiple levels with a curved staircase at the back. The main platform has a gorgeous dinner table set out, three chandeliers hanging and a projected backdrop of deep red curtains. On the dinner table were two or three candelabras with candles burning. This is the setting for the central conflict between Tosca and Scarpia with Cavaradossi's life hanging in the balance. While one of my friends commented that Scarpia was not evil incarnate at the start of the opera, I totally disagree. I felt that his entrance in Act One was chilling and clearly made the chorus uncomfortable. At the same time you realize during Act Two how evil and twisted this character is. Stephen Powell did a fantastic job of slowly dropping the mask and showing Scarpia's true nature. I have to admit I was tense all through this act and it was great! Kelly Kaduce's "Vissi d'arte" was magnificent and moving. The physicality of this actress astounded me again after seeing her in Rusalka. The fighting between her and Scarpia, the manhandling that she deals with was so realistic and well done. You could clearly see that they were struggling. The moments between her and Cavaradossi during this act were heartbreaking. The chemistry between them was as hot as the chemistry between Tosca and Scarpia was cold and hateful. The curtain comes down on Act Two with Scarpia dead on the floor, and Tosca slowly walking up the stairs to exit, dragging her shawl behind her, the candles almost burnt down - a fantastic visual.

Capalbo - (c) Dan Norman
The last act takes place on the top of Castel Sant'Angelo. The day is starting, a shepherd boy enters and sings a song, bells are ringing and dawn is slowly breaking. Cavaradossi is brought in to prepare for the firing squad. He makes one final request to write a letter to one he loves and will miss dearly. The aria was spellbinding. Tosca enters to let him know what transpired at the end of Act Two, that Scarpia provided them both with safe passage and that the firing squad will be shooting blanks. The firing squad enters, shoots him and leaves. Tosca stands watching them leave while telling Cavaradossi to "stay down, don't move until they are gone." She turns, once they are in the clear, and heads to the body of her lover. The final minutes of this opera were wonderful to watch. The choices that Kelly Kaduce make, that Tosca makes were so clear and it made the final moment inevitable.

The whole production was beautiful to watch and hear. The orchestra, lead by Anne Manson, was gorgeous, making every moment count. Costumes and set by Lorenzo Cutùli were perfect - colorful when needed, muted with a flash of color at times...Tosca's gowns were stunning. The one thing that I wanted to see though was blood. I know it can be messy, and difficult to work with at times but Scarpia is stabbed in the heart, and Cavaradossi is shot - there should be some blood and stage magic to portray that. Again, such a small issue - certainly not anything that others would pick up on, and it didn't lessen the wonder and beauty of this production. It plays through March 26th and if you have a chance, you should go see it. Gorgeous through and through.