The final opera of the fall season was Tosca. This was the last one of the top ten most-performed operas* that I hadn’t ever seen and the one I knew least about. This is probably a good thing, as the closing scene is quite the dramatic shocker and I was glad not to be spoiled for it. But I guess now you kind of are, given the title of this post. [Side note: The Pointer Sisters are so much fun, aren’t they? They represent the cheesy side of the 80s in all its glory.]
I’m not sure why it took me so long to write this one up since overall it was my favorite of the season. I blame overconsumption of turkey. Yeah, that’s it. [By the way, shout-out to my Pasadena peeps for another lovely Thanksgiving. I couldn’t dream up a better chosen family if I tried, cats included!]
Although not my favorite musically (that would surely be Rigoletto), the complete package here was phenomenal, from the cast, to the set, to the costumes. Tosca just seemed to represent what I thought an opera was when I started this crazy adventure in 2010. Kudos to Thierry Bosquet, the production designer, for his fabulous sets and costumes.
Note: This opera was double cast, and we saw the version with Patricia Racette as Floria Tosca, Brian Jagde as Mario Cavaradossi, and Mark Delavan as Baron Scarpia. I know that people definitely had their preferences for the two Toscas, but I loved Racette and was happy to learn that she would be returning in the Summer 2014 season.
Tosca is the story of a renowned opera singer, Floria Tosca, who loves an artist, Mario Cavaradossi. When Cavaradossi decides to help an escaped political prisoner who is being pursued by the chief of police, Scarpia, he seals his fate as well as Tosca’s. Scarpia uses Tosca’s jealousy and love against her to get her to reveal where the prisoner is hiding. Somehow, Napoléon is involved, but it doesn’t really matter, because Cavaradossi is dragged off to prison after having been tortured offstage for most of the second act. Scarpia barters for Cavaradossi’s life in exchange for having his way with Tosca, but is secretly planning to betray his word. Naturally, because this is opera, Tosca has her own plans and stabs Scarpia before he can claim his prize. She steals the safe-conduct pass he has written and flees to find Cavaradossi.
Just when I’m thinking, how can they top that? We find ourselves on the terrace of Castel Sant’Angelo, as Cavaradossi is brought in for his execution. He bribes his jailers to allow him to write a farewell letter to Tosca where he sings a beautiful aria (“E lucevan le stelle”) reminiscing about their past. And, really? They had me at the clarinet solo. Anyway, when Tosca arrives, she explains how they will escape by playing along with a mock execution. Sadly, this is not merely the mock, but rather the good turtle soup.** When Tosca discovers that Cavaradossi is really dead, she leaps to her death off of the castle tower. Damn, I did not see that coming. I mean I knew she would die (it’s opera), but not how. It was awesome.
*For the record, according to the most recent figures in Operabase, the top ten most-performed operas are:
1. La traviata (Verdi)
2. La bohème (Puccini)
3. Carmen (Bizet)
4. Die Zauberflöte (Mozart)
5. Tosca (Puccini)
6. Le nozze di Figaro (Mozart)
7. Madama Butterfly (Puccini)
8. Il barbiere di Siviglia (Rossini)
9. Rigoletto (Verdi)
10. Don Giovanni (Mozart)
**Cole Porter = mad lyricist skillz