Friday, 18 March 2016

Tosca, Grand Opera House (On behalf of The Reviews Hub)

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub and the link can be accessed here

(Image accessed from

For one night only, Opera & Ballet International presented Ellen Kent’s Tosca at York’s Grand Opera House, starring an international cast of soloists and a critically acclaimed orchestra.
Tosca is adapted from Victorien Sardou’s five act drama La Tosca, a French play exploring true love, jealousy, betrayal, torture, murder and suicide.  Tosca premiered in 1900 and is set in Rome at the beginning of the 19th Century when the city was then under the reign of Naples. Italy at the time was under constant threat of a Napoleonic invasion.
Puccini’s operas are renowned for its melodramatic work, and the tragic opera Tosca is no exception.  This beautiful masterpiece contained arias, recitatives and choruses.  These attributes emphasised the story’s unique characters and plot.  Neoclassical design staging and traditional costumes in the production reflected the era, complimented throughout the three acts.
Alyona Kistenyova portrayed a fiery and passionate Floria Tosca.  Kistenyova projected powerfully through song Tosca’s strong personality and her love for Cavaradossi.  Her determination to be faithful to him remained strong throughout, despite being at the mercy of the villainous Baron Scarpia. One of the outstanding highlights was Vissi d’arte when she emotively questioned spirituality and her very existence at the end Act II.  An expressive and soul searching aria by Kistenyova, it was particularly well received by the audience.
Ruslan Zinevych starred as the artistic Cavaradossi.  Being a victim of injustice and torture, he never stopped loving Tosca, evident of the tenderness between the pair.  When Cavaradossi’s fate was sealed in Act III, one was moved by his romantic E lucevan le stele, reflecting the strong love he and Tosca had for one another.
The powerful manipulative Baron Scarpia was played by Vladimir Dragos.  Dragos’ excellent interpretation of the womanising and power abusing character was palpable throughout.  Noted was his pious determination in Te Deum laudamus in Act I, intending to have Cavaradossi eradicated and to claim Tosca for himself.
The ensemble roles were played by Stagecoach Theatre Arts York’s students, who certainly cherished the fantastic opportunity to star in this international production.
The orchestra, under the direction of Vasyl Vasylenko, played Puccini’s masterpiece wonderfully and to Illica and Giacosa’s libretto.   A variety of musical instruments, particularly the percussion, contributed to the dramatic nature in Tosca.  Sung in Italian with English surtitles, this allowed the audience to experience it in the original language while also appreciating its emotive depths that the opera deserves and the crescendo to the anticipated tragic in the finale ended with a well-synchronised use of music and silences. Tosca was a melodramatic opera with a powerful story, and thoroughly enjoyable.

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