This April, Heritage Opera bring their critically acclaimed production of Puccini’s dramatic opera, Tosca to the Macrobert Arts Centre.
Set in early 19th century Rome, the themes of: war, corruption, political conflict, violence, jealously, love and death spill out onto the dramatic stage.
The opera starts comically as Cavaradossi (Nicholas Sales) paints away in a lonely Church and admires the beauty of his youthful subject.
But then his fiery love, Tosca (Sarah Helsby Hughes) arrives and her jealous passions flare in a panic for she believes that her lover is being unfaithful with this blonde beauty in the painting.
The whimsical pair play a humorous tug of war between truth and fantasy. But Tosca finally admits that perhaps Cavaradossi is true to her and she is merely insecure.
But once she departs, strange events occur as a wounded and distressed man (Phil Gault) hobbles and crumples on stage before Cavaradossi. It turns out that he is a fugitive, on the run from the cruel Baron Scarpia (Mark Saberton), who is the chief of police in their city.
Concerned for the welfare of Angelotti, Cavaradossi promises to hide the bedraggled man in his villa and plan an escape from the city.
But shortly after they flee, the Baron arrives and susses the scheme which leads to a vicious game of manipulation where he convinces Tosca that Cavaradossi is having an affair, and the emotional Prima donna believes his lies and tells the Baron she can guess where her lover and the escaped prisoner are hiding.
The Baron captures Cavaradossi and Tosca learns that she has been tricked. But while the hero is tortured, the leading lady is given an ultimatum. If she allows Scarpia to have his wicked way with her then she and her Cavaradossi may leave and be free, but if not he will surely die.
In anguish Tosca is torn between fear for herself and fear for her innocent love.
Finally, once Scarpia has signed the bargain, and comes forth to take his payment, Tosca murders him with a fatal stab.
The desperate Tosca tears away from the scene to find Cavaradossi and tells him that all is well; they can run from this accursed place-the nightmare will soon be over.
But as part of Scarpia’s plans and for the sake of show, the guards must pretend to shoot Cavaradossi so that the people will fear the wrath of the police.
The passionate pair kiss and embrace and stand apart so that the performance may be done, but their eyes are lit with fear, and as the guns fire, Cavaradossi cries in pain and falls to the ground.
The guards depart and Tosca rushes to her love, but it is too late. She shakes him and begs for life, but he is gone.
The guards approach once more-they have found their master’s body. Tosca runs but there is no escape. She must pay the price with her life. She chooses to fling herself from the castle walls and die rather than be taken.
The story is tragic, the message clear. Corruption is madness and it will do anything without mercy to satisfy its lusts. And so often the innocent are trapped within its grasp and are fatally destroyed by its power.
But the story also reminds that jealousy and insecurity are dangerous and ugly traits which must be laid to rest as their destructive lies weaken and break all in their path.
As for the quality of the production. Tosca was an interesting narrative but not as refined or well-polished as it could have been.
The story was too simple and lacked sufficient time to progress naturally or logically. The way in which Scarpia suspected Cavaradossi was too forced; where was the true evidence, why was there such precise suspicion?
However, it wasn’t entirely at fault as the narrative was compelling, humbly sincere and driven by a subtle foundation of true social and political turmoil related to French revolutionary history.
However, the performance was incredible and directed exquisitely by Sarah Helsby Hughes. Everyone in the cast was dynamic and vivacious.
In particular Sarah Helsby Hughes (Tosca), Nicholas Sales (Cavaradossi) and Mark Saberton (Scarpia), not only acted with forceful passion, but commanded the Macrobert Arts Centre with their captivating and enthralling voices.
Given the fact that the Macrobert Arts Centre is a small space which is used for diverse performances, the entire production was put on beautifully and flawlessly and I would highly recommend seeing Puccini’s tragic opera that echoes so many of the fragile truths of life.