Jonathan Burton as Cavaradossi and Alexandra Loutsion as Tosca
Jonathan Burton as Cavaradossi
and Alexandra Loutsion as Tosca
Photo: Amanda Tipton
While the establishment press criticized Tosca right from the start (with its premiere at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome on January 14, 1900), it was an immediate hit with the masses and continues to be one of the most performed operas in the world. All the reasons for its popularity are evident in the current production at Central City Opera: Giacomo Puccini's transcendent melodies (a rich performance by John Baril and the Festival Orchestra) are at the top of the list, of course; but the libretto (based on Victorien Sardou's 1887 French-language dramatic play, La Tosca), by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, which comes down hard on the corrupt Church and fascist nobility, is also a big reason why the public ignored the propaganda and attended in droves.

Michael Mayes as Baron Scarpia
Michael Mayes
as Baron Scarpia
Photo: Amanda Tipton
The current production, directed by Joachim Schamberger, is both well-conceived and blessed with phenomenal voices. Schamberger's theme involves three congruent sets of cages, one for each act—in the church, in the interrogation rooms at the military fortress, and at the gallows—that underscore the dialectic between freedom, love, oppression, and fear.

The story of the jealous diva, Floria Tosca (Alexandra Loutsion), her lover, the artist Mario Cavaradossi (Jonathan Burton), and their tormentor, Baron Scarpia (Michael Mayes), in many ways seemingly defines the classic melodrama, as Scarpia aims to do away with Cavaradossi and violate Tosca; yet, the complexity of the outcome defies expectations.

Alexandra Loutsion as Tosca and Jonathan Burton as Cavaradossi
Alexandra Loutsion as Tosca
and Jonathan Burton as Cavaradossi
Photo: Amanda Tipton
From the start, Burton's tenor and Loutsion's soprano, as well as Mayes' baritone are wide open, stunning us with their range, nuances of phrasing, and dramatic expression. Anyone wondering why the vowel-laden Italian language is the core of the repetoire needs to listen to these magnificent instruments! It's a divine love story fully captured in sweet and soaring melodies, and ominous, bone-rattling undertones.

Susan Memmott Allred's spot-on period costumes and David Martin Jacques subtle lighting amplify the spectacle. Schamberger does a marvelous job with the projections, particularly in the first act, with the rotunda of the church and with Tosca's emotional pyrotechnics at the hands of Scarpia.

Central City Opera's presentation of Tosca runs through August 7th. For tickets:

Bob Bows

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