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Tosca gets a digital twist

Tosca gets a digital twist

Tosca

Tosca plays at the Sydney Opera House

Tosca
Giselle Allen as Tosca and Gevorg Hakobyan as Scarpia. Image by Keith Saunders.

Tosca gets a digital twist

The curtain rises on Puccini’s Tosca, revealing a set with a golden ceiling reminiscent of a baroque church, an apt setting for Act One’s religious overtones. However, the scene transitions dramatically in Act Two to a modern hotel room featuring a sleek, gold four-poster bed. This contemporary twist reimagines the police chief, Scarpia, as a polished mafia figure rather than an antiquated villain. On this bed, Scarpia uses a laptop to view the torture of Cavaradossi—a stark blend of old and new. The question arises: does this anachronistic mix work? It’s debatable, but undeniably entertaining, breathing new life into a timeless story.

Giselle Allen as Tosca

Tosca
Giselle Allen as Tosca and Young Woo Kim as Cavaradossi. Image by Keith Saunders.

Giselle Allen delivers a dynamic performance as Tosca, capturing the character’s dual nature—haughty and self-absorbed prima donna and tragic heroine. Her portrayal draws the audience into Tosca’s turbulent world. Young Woo Kim, as Cavaradossi, shines with a stellar rendition of “Recondita armonia,” his voice resonating through the Joan Sutherland Theatre’s farthest corners. His performance is heartfelt and powerful, adding depth to his character’s plight.

Andrew Moran as Sacristan

Andrew Moran as Sacristan and Luke Gabbedy as Sciarrone in Tosca.
Andrew Moran as Sacristan and Luke Gabbedy as Sciarrone in Tosca. Image by Keith Saunders.

Andrew Moran, as Sacristan, provides comic relief, energetically washing Cavaradossi’s paintbrushes and eliciting laughter from the audience. His presence lightens the otherwise tense atmosphere, offering a brief respite from the unfolding drama.

Gevorg Hakobyan as Scarpia

Tosca
Giselle Allen as Tosca and Gevorg Hakobyan as Scarpia. Image by Keith Saunders.

The sinister role of Scarpia is portrayed by Gevorg Hakobyan, embodying the archetype of a sadistic police chief. His character echoes the dangerous individuals who, once rising to power, manipulate ideological movements for personal gain. These figures, elevated from society’s underbelly, treat those around them as mere pawns. We see in Scarpia a reflection of authoritarian figures throughout history who have exploited religious and populist sentiments for their own ends.

Edward Dick as the director

Director Edward Dick deftly critiques religiosity, populism, and the authoritarianism they foster. This production places the characters in a surveillance state where privacy is non-existent, art is reduced to propaganda, and religious ceremonies are akin to political rallies. This modern interpretation underscores the timelessness of these themes, making the opera relevant to contemporary audiences.

Benjamin Rasheed and Luke Gabbedy, as Scarpia’s henchmen Spoletta and Scarrione, are suitably menacing. Rasheed’s portrayal is particularly noteworthy, exuding a creepy sycophancy that matches Scarpia’s lasciviousness. Anthony Mackey, as the gaoler, adds to the ominous atmosphere with his brooding presence.

Tosca
Alexander Hugo Young as the young shepherd boy. Image by Keith Saunders.

The young shepherd boy, played by Alexander Hugo Young, sings his morning lament perched on the rim of the oculus, foreshadowing Tosca’s tragic end. His performance is deeply touching, adding a poignant layer to the unfolding drama.

The Opera Australia Chorus, under Chorus Master Paul Fitzsimon, lends its heavenly voices to the production, particularly during the “Te Deum” scene. Though largely unseen, their presence is felt throughout, enhancing the overall atmosphere. The Children’s Chorus, directed by Michael Curtain, adds an angelic touch, contrasting with the darker elements of the story.

Maestro Johannes Fritzsch

Tosca
Andrew Moran as Sacristan and the OA Chorus and Children’s Chorus in Tosca. Image by Keith Saunders.

Under the baton of Maestro Johannes Fritzsch, the Opera Australia Orchestra, with Acting Associate Concertmaster Katherine Lukey, delivers a sensitive interpretation of Puccini’s score. The music complements Bell’s detailed scene work, adding emotional depth and texture to the production.

In this bold and innovative staging of Tosca, Bell successfully blends past and present, offering a fresh take on a classic opera. The modern elements, from Scarpia’s laptop to the hotel room setting, create a striking contrast with the traditional aspects, reflecting the timeless nature of the story’s themes. The production challenges the audience to consider the relevance of these themes in today’s world, making Tosca not just a historical artifact, but a living, breathing commentary on contemporary society.

Tosca
Tosca image by Keith Saunders.

The performances, particularly by Allen and Kim, bring the characters to life with emotional intensity and depth. The supporting cast and chorus add layers of complexity and richness to the production, ensuring that this Tosca is memorable and thought-provoking. Whether you are a long-time opera lover or a newcomer to the genre, this production offers something unique and compelling, inviting you to see Tosca in a new light.


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