Review of LA Opera's Tosca - Sizzling Passion, Resounding Fury

Loving couple (Thomas Russell and Sondra Radvanovsky)

 

Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca is a timeless story of great dramatic love, courage and sacrifice.  It begins with a romantic tryst in a church and ends with murder and suicide. Two of the most famous arias in opera history are an integral part of the story and bring all the depth of emotion to the fore. It is at the top of many lists of greatest operas of all time because it is so engaging and beautiful, and it can be enjoyed over and over again. 

Tosca realizes she is in trouble

Now playing at LA Opera, the current production is a retake of that coproduction with Houston Opera Company first staged at LA Opera in 2013.  The leading lady, the fabulous Sondra Radvanovsky, returns to perform.

 

Scarpia's (Ambrogio Maestri) lust

Ms. Radvanovsky has a voice that is powerful, haunting and overwhelming -- like the sweet scent of blooming night jasmine that is now in the air in springtime in Southern California.  Unforgettable.  Pervasive.  Her instrument is so well tuned with her own emotions as the persona she is playing that she knows just when to bring her vocal genius to full force.  Feeling and projecting the overwhelming emotions of Floria Tosca, Radvanovsky masterfully punctuates her deepest moments of love and torment within the story. It is a wonderous sound, which seems to come straight from her heart.

 

Tosca's famous lament

Radvanovsky saves her strongest thrusts for the highest moments.  They come out in her bleakest fears when she realizes her lover will be killed and she herself probably raped. She laments with God as to why this should happen to one like her, who is filled with charity.  Her plea, “Vissi d’arte” fills the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion and in this production as in that of 2013, brings about the longest sustained response from the audience I have ever witnessed at LA Opera.

Tosca's fury

 

Besides Radvanovsky, the other casting in this production is magical too, and every moment I was on the edge of my seat.  Tosca’s lover, Mario Cavaradossi, is perfectly owned by Russell Thomas. Thomas emits strength and gentleness at the same time, while conveying passion and idealism.  His voice is strong and yet has subtle, soft undertones, which project his vulnerability.  He is a perfect and believable lover for Tosca, and their chemistry is sizzling.

 

Mario Cavaradossi, idealist and artist

Even before Tosca enters, Thomas wins his own dynamic applause as he expresses his idealism in Act I. And when the two of them sing the famous love duet, it is  pure magic, filled with subtleties and the humor present in seasoned love.  The artistry is invisible as the audience witnesses real moments of intimacy between the characters with amazing expressiveness. Wow.

From great joy to great sorrow

 

Ambrogio Maestri plays the evil Scarpia.  He has a commanding presence on stage and is very believable as a force for evil, without trying to seem evil.  He is who he is, and the audience buys it.  These roles require a lot from the persona as he melds his strong, melodious voice with the feelings of a powerful scoundrel who easily takes over and pushes others around. His beautiful baritone voice projects his power.

 

Angelotti (Nicholas Brownlee), escaped revolutionary

James Conlon as conductor and the LA Opera Orchestra were there for every exquisite moment. All the minor characters were also wonderful, with special note to Nicholas Brownlee as Angelotti, and Gabriel Vamvulescu as Jailer.

Scarpia oversees the Church

The Los Angeles Children's Chorus creates a lush scene in church.  I cannot say enough about this production. It is not to be missed. 

 

Photos by Ken Howard courtesy of LA Opera

 

GEORJA UMANO is an actress and animal advocate.

 

Laopera.org

Performances of Tosca 2017:

  • Thursday April 27, 2017 07:30 PM BUY TICKETS
     Lowest price and Newcomer Night!
     Sunday April 30, 2017 02:00 PM BUY TICKETS
  • Tuesday May 02, 2017 07:30 PM BUY TICKETS
  • Friday May 05, 2017 07:30 PM BUY TICKETS
     Best availability!
     Sunday May 07, 2017 02:00 PM BUY TICKETS
  • Saturday May 13, 2017 07:30 PM BUY TICKETS 

 

Box Office phone hours are Monday-Saturday from 10:00am-6:00pm; the Box Office Window is closed on Mondays.  On performance days, we open 2 hours prior to curtain: typically 5:30pm for evening performances and noon for matinees.

Phone: 213.972.8001 
Fax: 213.972.3008  
Email: [email protected]
Address: 135 North Grand Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90012

 

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