Tosca: Theatre Royal: Opera Review

Graham Robson February 7, 2013

UnknownOpera director Ellen Kent celebrated 20 years of bringing opera to the masses with a “gothic, melodramatic” production of Puccini’s Tosca at The Theatre Royal.

This traditional staging of what was once called a “shabby little shocker”, saw Ellen’s company strain every drip of drama from one of Puccini’s greatest, most macabre, works.

Marina Tonina was powerful as the multi-faceted eponymous Tosca, deftly scaling the emotional, and vocal, gamut between fragility and courage. Initially draped in rose-bud pink, she blossomed into harlot red in the later scenes as her passion, and the situation, became more hopeless.

Tenor Sorin Lupu tackled Cavaradossi, Tosca’s doomed lover, with fool-hardiness in his characterisation and ringing tones during the challenging romanza Recondita Armonia (Act One).

The humble, dim-lit, chapel of Act One was countered by the plummy opulence of Scarpia’s palace in Act Two, wherein Kent unleashed an arsenal of Victorian theatre tricks, including Tosca’s cantana sang behind a gauze and not off stage, utilised to add depth and intrigue to what for many can be an overly wordy second act.

Vladimir Dragos revelled as the dastardly villain, the lecherous Scarpia, a role that can often veer into pantomime. His vocal prowess and menacing stance roused unease within the theatre, particularly during the ultimatum he offers to Tosca, resulting in a macabre twist.


Kent succeeded in conveying a sense of desolation during Act Three, however the ‘firing squad’ felt lifeless, and those in the Gods (unforgivably) missed, save for a flutter of silk, Tosca’s final, infamous, act of defiance.

Whilst as an opera, Tosca may not have the crowd-pleasing “chorus of Hebrew slaves” of Nabucco, nor the “triumphal march” of Aida, it does benefit from gorgeous choral scenes (brought by a local Brighton choir) and by having not one, but two of the finest arias: the prayer Vissi D’arte (an aria part of any soprano’s repertoire), was performed with earnest pleading by Tonina, and Lupu’s E lucevan le stelle trembled with desperation.

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