Tosca Review - Hits All the High Notes

On a rare autumn weekend when the Bears weren’t vying for my Sunday afternoon attention, I had the opportunity to hear and see Puccini’s grand opera Tosca, as performed at the McAninch Art Center (the MAC), on the campus of the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.  I am not an opera aficionado, but I know good music when I hear it, and this production was excellent.   The opera was presented in concert format where the New Philharmonic Orchestra, the Northwest Indiana Symphony Chorus, and soloists were all on stage or our viewing and listening pleasure.   And while the opera was not staged as a play, it lost none of emotion that comes from the story and the interwoven musical score.   I enjoyed being able to see Maestro Kirk Muspratt conduct the orchestra while concentrating on the amazing arias and action among the actor/singers.

New Philharmonic

Maestro Kirk Muspratt

Tosca is the story of Floria Tosca (Karen Slack), a great opera singer in Italy, who is in love with Mario Cavaradossi (Dominic Armstrong), a painter and minor revolutionary.  Mario helps a friend Angelotti (Ryan de Ryke) who has escaped from prison, and Tosca visits the church where he is painting a Madonna, worried that he has perhaps been cavorting with the apparent model for his Madonna (when in fact Tosca is his inspiration).  She is overly jealous and she accuses him of not being in love with her, but he assures her he is completely enamored of her.  They agree to meet later after her performance that evening. 

Armstrong and de Ryke


Meanwhile, the corrupt official Scarpia (Corey Crider) has Mario seized for aiding the enemy and schedules his execution.  He brings in Tosca and tells her he will only save Mario if she submits to him.  She agrees and he tells his aide to go stage a “fake” execution.   Tosca stabs and kills him after obtaining a letter of safe passage for Mario and herself.  She finds Mario in prison where he is due to be executed and tells him all will be well and that he should fall down and pretend to be dead when the firing squad “shoots” him.  Instead, they shoot and truly kill him.  Devastated, Tosca throws herself off the parapet to her own demise. 

Crider, Slack, and Armstrong

But not before they all make beautiful music.  The orchestra was crisp and and high with emotional style (Concert Master Michele Lekas).  I particularly enjoyed the performance of the Corey Crider who played Scarpia.  His portrayal gave me chills with his single-minded goal to make Tosca submit to him, all the while falsely promising to save her lover Mario.  Karen Slack brought Tosca complex personality to life with her facial expressions and her vocal prowess.  Tosca’s well-known aria "Vissi d'arte” prior to killing Scarpia brought me tears with the beauty of Slack’s high clear soprano.  Dominic Armstrong as Mario made me believe in his adoration for Tosca. The performers with lesser roles, Michael Orlinsky as the Sacristan, Sciarrone, and Jailor and Joshua Blue as Spoletta enhanced the overall presentation.

Crider and Slack

Orlinsky and Blue

The performance at the MAC brings opera to everyone in a couple of ways.  I attended a pre-opera chat with the maestro and a couple of the performers where the audience members were able to ask questions.  Maestro Muspratt provided interesting information about the music that made the ensuing performance more compelling, and hearing the love the soloists had for their roles was gratifying later when their performances matched that admiration.  The presentation included an interactive intermission, and the performers were again in the lobby greeting the audience when we left the auditorium, drained but completely satisfied.

The Maestro, Armstrong, and Crider at the the pre-performance chat

The MAC has been renovated recently.  The auditorium acoustics were excellent and is intimate enough that no opera glasses are necessary.  There is plenty of free parking.  Drinks and snacks are available prior to and during the intermission of the performance.  The College of DuPage also has a restaurant, Waterleaf, next door that is associated with their Culinary Arts department. 

The MAC has many upcoming events available.  The schedule can be found here.  For tickets and more information, call the MAC box office at (630) 942-4000.

Photographs Courtesy of New Philharmonic.

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