Review: The Canadian Opera Company: Giacomo Puccini’s “Tosca” – Thursday May 4, 2017

Toronto – The Canadian Opera Company closes its 2016/2017 season with Puccini’s beloved Tosca. A tense drama of passion and betrayal, Tosca returns in a COC production performed with two of today’s great divas in the title role: internationally renowned Canadian soprano Adrianne Pieczonka and critically acclaimed American soprano Keri Alkema. Tosca runs for 12 performances at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts on April 30, May 4, 6, 7, 9, 11, 12, 14, 17, 18, 19, 20, 2017.

Set in Rome amid the turbulence of the Napoleonic Wars, Tosca’s story is a melodramatic tale of love, lust, corruption and betrayal as opera singer Floria Tosca fights to save her lover from a blood-thirsty chief of police.

The COC revives its lavish production by award-winning Scottish director Paul Curran, with sumptuous costumes and stunning sets of chapels, palaces and fortresses of 19th-century Rome by designer Kevin Knight, and atmospheric lighting design by David Martin Jacques.

Conducting the COC Orchestra, COC Chorus and cast through some of Puccini’s most deeply felt and dramatic melodies is Canadian Keri-Lynn Wilson. A regular guest conductor at leading international opera companies and orchestras, Wilson makes her COC debut with one of the most popular and performed operas in the world.

The title role is one of Puccini’s most complex and fascinating heroines and an unforgettable theatrical showcase for a great dramatic soprano, shared in the COC’s production by Adrianne Pieczonka and Keri Alkema.

Celebrated on the leading opera and concert stages of Europe, North America and Asia, Pieczonka has been described as “simply magnificent” (The Independent) and “a revelation, with a lavishly creamy voice” (The Financial Times). She returns to the role of Floria Tosca at the COC after delivering a “luminous performance” (Globe and Mail) with the company in 2012. Alkema returns to the COC after sharing her “rich, full vocal presence that caresses the score to perfection” (Toronto Star) in 2013’s La clemenza di Tito and bringing a “sensuality and a strong presence” (NOW) to 2012’s The Tales of Hoffmann. Her engagement at the COC comes on the heels of her Tosca debut with English National Opera last fall where she was met with lavish praise:

“compelling…. Passionate, teasing, vulnerable, full of love, stirred to vengeful rage and desperate measures, Alkema gets to the heart of Tosca, giving us a poised ‘Vissi d’arte’ on the way” (The Times).

Making their COC debuts as Tosca’s lover, Mario Cavaradossi, are exciting young Argentine tenor Marcelo Puente and heroic Bulgarian tenor Kamen Chanev. German bass-baritone Markus Marquardt, a sought-after interpreter of the Italian repertoire, makes his Canadian debut as the evil police chief, Scarpia. He shares the role with young American bass-baritone Craig Colclough who makes his COC debut and is reunited with Alkema, having sung Scarpia to her Tosca with ENO in fall 2016.

South African bass-baritone Musa Ngqungwana, praised for his “rich, glowing voice and elegant legato” (New York Times) makes his Canadian debut as the escaped political prisoner Angelotti. Italian bass Donato di Stefano (2011’s La Cenerentola) returns to the COC as the Sacristan. The role of Spoletta is sung by American tenor Joel Sorensen, in his COC debut.

Canadian-British bass-baritone Giles Tomkins sings Sciarrone, in his company debut, and COC Ensemble Studio baritone Bruno Roy is the Jailer.

Last performed by the COC in 2012, this production of Tosca is a COC co-production with the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet. Tosca is sung in Italian with English SURTITLESTM.

Tosca premiered to mixed reviews in Rome in 1900, but this thrilling melodrama, with its all-consuming power to stir passion, has since become a staple of the operatic repertoire.

TICKET INFORMATION

Single tickets for Tosca range from $35 – $235 and box seats, when available, are $350. Tickets are now on sale, available online at coc.ca, by calling 416-363-8231, or in person at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts Box Office (145 Queen St. W.). For more information on specially priced tickets available to young people under the age of 15, standing room, Opera Under 30 presented by TD Bank Group, student groups and rush seating, visit coc.ca.

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Review:

Puccini’s ‘Tosca’ is the perfect opera for you to get lost in especially if you are a first time opera attendee.  It is sizzling, jam packed with power struggles between the key characters, short and sweet soap opera drama vignettes soaked in unbridled passion.

“Vissi d’arte” is one of the most famous soprano aria’s and it can be found nestled in Act 2 of ‘Tosca’.   Sung by Floria Tosca as she thinks of her fate, how the life of her beloved, Mario Cavaradossi, is at the mercy of Baron Scarpia and why God has seemingly abandoned her.  How can the audience not relate to her plight?

We have heard “Vissi d’arte” in its many variations buried in films and TV shows.  The Canadian Opera Company’s ‘Tosca’ introduces us to Adrianne Pieczonka’s “Vissi d’arte”.  Adrianne Pieczonka’s performance is on par to Maria Callas’ ode.  Rich, emotional and gut wrenching.  Kleenex is a must and should be easily accessible upon completion of her performance.

The staging and costuming amplified the experience of ‘Tosca’.  The audience is immediately transported to church and then a doomsday like fortress.  Religious regalia, beautiful chiffon like dresses, decadent grand paintings, Our Lady in a church procession and an ominous jail play secondary character roles.  The architecture of the space helped in ravaging the raw emotion of the performances.

Mario Cavaradossi as played by Marcelo Puente and Markus Marquardt playing the role of chief of police amplify the drama within ‘Tosca’ and still curates a gentle space for Floria Tosca to grieve and lash out.  Their performances cumulatively are jaw dropping and will encourage you to make a note to pick up a recording of ‘Tosca’ the following day for further reflection. 

The poem to Rome’s scenic views, a plot line that will keep you intrigued and the emotional exploration of troubled and heightened relationships of the characters.   The Canadian Opera Company provides the best in opera fare and ‘Tosca’ is certainly an opera to see again with a friend or family member to ruminate over, share a debrief with or perhaps dig deeper into Puccini’s flourishing opera catalogue.

Although a less physically arduous opera to enjoy, ‘Tosca’ runs just over 2.5 hours and has three acts.  The acts are brief, cohesive and riddled with an intense overriding theme of the price of passion and power.  ‘Tosca’ although heavy to inhale into our lungs provides a wonderful respite to lean into as a break from current day political shenanigans outside the doors of The Four Seasons for the Performing Arts. 

http://www.coc.ca

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