Tosca Review - Lyric Opera of Chicago's Gala Opening

The lobby bathed in pink light

My companion and I had the opportunity of attending the opening of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 55th season, 2009-2010 with the Opening Night Gala performance of Puccini’s melodrama, Tosca.  The new season began on a high note as we entered the lobby  via the red carpet and found it splendidly decorated by Heffernan Morgan, Inc. We enjoyed the savory and sweet delectables provided by Jewell Events Catering, and the available champagne, before the opera began and during the two intermissions. We were pleased for the opportunity to explore the two newly opened restaurants. On the first floor, The Sarah and Peer Pedersen Room is an intimate space for dinner that requires reservations.  The Florian Opera Bistro at the Dress Circle Level is larger, more casual and does not require reservations.

First floor Sarah and Peer Pedersen Room

Florian Opera Bistro

Tosca performances are taking place coast to coast.  I was told about the Tosca that was shown as a simulcast, a collaboration of the San Francisco Opera and the San Francisco Giants where Webcor Builders Presented “Opera at the Ballpark”, an activity that is free and invites attendees to bring picnic baskets.  

On the other coast, the Metropolitan Opera just opened its season with Tosca.  From the New York Times, September 23, 2009 review by Anthony Tommasini says, “The Met opened its season …with a new production of Giacomo Puccini’s “Tosca” by the adventurous Swiss born director Luc Bondy.  When Mr. Bondy and the production team appeared onstage during curtain calls, the audience erupted in boos.”  It goes on to discuss the avant-garde approach to the staging and gives high praise to many aspects of the production.

Lyric Opera of Chicago's Tosca, 1st act

We wondered what the Lyric production of Tosca would offer.  Surely, with Deborah Voigt as Tosca, the tempestuous diva, Vladimir Galouzine as her lover and James Morris as the villainous police chief and Sir Andrew Davis conducting, wouldn’t this have to be a fabulous performance?

Vladimir Galouzine discovers his friend who has escaped from jail

I am delighted to report that it was.  After each act, the audience expressed vigorous approval with a well-deserved standing ovation at the end.

La Tosca, the French play by Victorien Sardou premiered in 1887 and starred actress, Sarah Bernhardt as Tosca.  When Puccini saw the play in 1889, he requested his publisher, Giulio Ricordi to obtain the rights to it.  In Puccini’s hands the story is compressed to a short time span, from noon of June 17th, 1800 to the following dawn but the action is so intense it seems to span time and space.  This is the story of an idealistic artist, a celebrated singer and a corrupt police chief who engage in a fierce battle of wills.  It is a tempestuous tale of cruelty and deception with its themes of political intrigue, sexual intimidation and official hypocrisy, themes easily recognizable today.

James Morris and Deborah Voigt, Tosca 2nd act

In Lyric's Tosca  the legendary Franco Zeffirelli production, created for Maria Callas and Tito Gobbi at Covent Garden is seen.  Lyric purchased these realistic and powerful sets  from Covent Garden in 1964.  They were used at Lyric once previously, in 2004-05.  The raised dais in the first act, the candles in the second act and the night sky in the third act heighten the drama played out by the performers.

Tosca (Deborah Voigt) saves her honor when she kills the police chief (James Morris) 2nd act

Deborah Voigt, Vladimir Galouzine and James Morris each combined powerful acting with singing that was beautiful.  The blend of voices with the orchestral music was uplifting.  But it was the power of the drama that kept the audience on the edge of their seats, and was the source of the applause that exploded at the end.  Do go see what the raves are about.  You will have a powerful, beautiful experience to remember.

Tosca(Deborah Voigt) comes to see Mario(Vladimir Galouzine), 3rd act

Aon Corporation is sponsoring Lyric’s Opening Night Benefit for the 25th consecutive year.  Generous sponsors for this revival of Tosca are the Abbott Fund, Mr. and Mrs. John V. Crowe, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Ms. Nancy W. Knowles, Women’s Board of Lyric Opera of Chicago, Mrs. Richard W. Durkes (Clementina), president.  Mrs. Matthew A Fisher (Stephanie) is Opening Night chairman, Sponsors of the Opera Ball, Illinois Tool Works, Inc., Northern Trust, Sponsors of the Opening-Night Radio Broadcast on 98.7 WFMT, The Bucksbaum Family Lyric Opera Broadcasts, The Matthew Bucksbaum Family, The Crown Family and Richard P. and Susan Kiphart, Sponsor of the Pre-Opera Private Reception/Graham Room, Liz Stiffel, Sponsor of the Opera Ball Reception, Liz Stiffel.

Lyric Opera of Chicago
20 N. Wacker Drive
Chicago, IL 60606
312.332.2244 or

Dine at Lyric
The Sarah and Peer Pedersen Room (capacity of 72)
Prix-fixe dining for $28.00
Subscribers only, reservations required

Florian Opera Bistro
First come, first serve for opera ticket holders

Patrons for both restaurants enter through Civic Opera House presenting tickets for that day's performance.

For further information go to:

Opera photos - Dan Rest, Restaurant & Lobby photos - Leon Keer

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