Tosca | Opera AustraliaLeft – Claudio Sgura and Martina Serafin. Cover – Claudio Sgura and Diego Torre. Photos –  Jeff Busby

Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca, based on the 1887 French-language dramatic play by Victorien Sardou, was originally set in the summer of 1800, in Rome, when the Kingdom of Naples was threatened by Napoleon’s invasion of Italy; a very turbulent and violent time.

Opera Australia’s latest rendition of Tosca, is directed by one of Australia’s  most acclaimed theatre personalities, John Bell, who has set the opera, which some critics have referred to as ‘over-familiar’ even ‘old’, in an equally dangerous and brutal period in Italy, the German occupations of Rome of 1943.

Martina Serafin embodying Tosca, and Diego Torre as her artist lover, Cavaradossi, radiate a special chemistry, which is laden by jealousy as well as great affection. Their performance was thoroughly moving. “Vissi d’arte, vissi d’amore,” (I lived for art; I lived for love) Serafin’s rendition of Tosca’s lament over her ill fate is deeply moving and Torre’s interpretation of Recondita armonia is sublime.

Claudio Sgura’s rendition of the twisted Scarpia, sends chills down one’s back. During the performance I attended, I overheard a couple of women stating “he deserved that,” referring to his murder at the hand of Tosca. Sgura was awarded with a few choice boos at the end of the show, which he fondly accepted with a broad smile and waves of clasped hands in gratitude to the audience.

Michael Scott-Mitchell’s sets are breathtaking. It was interesting to see how the set design reflected each act. The first is the recreated Baroque interior of Sant’Andrea della Valle church, rich and beautiful, mirroring the serene state when Tosca is first introduced to the audience, followed by the set featuring Scarpia’s stark Fascist architecture headquarters, representing the helpless naked feeling of both Tosca and Mario during his incarceration for suspicion of aiding a fugitive, and concluding the story with the tragic drab Nazi camp, which is when the two lovers meet their demise.

Bell’s fresh new production of Tosca is beautiful and it is painfully dark as well, incorporating love with tragedy, making for a perfect combination for an opera... and Tosca is the opera of operas, with a storyline which transgresses time.

Opera Australia presents
Giacomo Puccini

Director John Bell

Venue: Arts Centre Melbourne, State Theatre
Dates: November 12 – December 13, 2014

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