The classical opera “Tosca,” composed by Giacomo Puccini, is the Metropolitan Opera live in HD broadcast this week at Colorado Mountain College.
“Tosca” was first performed in 1900 at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome and is set in the stressful revolutionary time of the Napoleonic wars. In the opening scene, the escaped political prisoner Cesare Angelotti enters the church of Sant’ Andrea and is recognized by the painter Mario Cavaradossi (sung by tenor Roberto Alagna), who provides food and concealment for his friend. While painting a portrait of Mary Magdaline, Mario is interrupted by the appearance of his lover, Tosca (sung by Patricia Racette).
Tosca reacts with one of her outbursts of anger and jealousy upon viewing Mario’s painting, which is not of her likeness. He quickly professes his love for Tosca. A cannon is heard signaling the discovery of Angelotti’s escape. Both he and Mario quickly depart. The church sexton and choirboys enter to sing the Te Deum but are interrupted by the chief of the secret police, Baron Scarpia (sung by George Gagnidze), in search of the escaped Angelotti. Tosca appears and is greeted by Scarpia, who gives her a fan he knows belongs to a rival lover, renewing her sense of Mario’s faithlessness and vowing vengeance.
Act II, known as the torture scene, takes place in Scarpia’s apartment, where Mario has been captured and tortured. Tosca is also present and agonizes over Mario’s screams of torture, heard through an open door. In desperation, she offers herself to Scarpia. In return for her plea to release Mario, Scarpia signs a document pretending to order a mock execution for Mario. When advancing for an embrace, Tosca stabs Scarpia with a knife and wretches the note from his dying fingers.
Act III takes place on the roof of the prison, where Tosca informs Mario of Scarpia’s mock execution. The two engage in a wonderful musical duet professing their love for each other. Following the shots from the firing squad, Tosca goes to her fallen lover — “Mario, Mario, get up,” only to realize that he is dead. Guards again appear to arrest Tosca, but she escapes to commit her own suicide as the curtain comes down.
Luc Bondy, a prominent Swiss stage director, is the producer. Early Met productions in New York have been received with boos and jeers from the audience, primarily directed to the drab setting of the church in Act I, devoid of religious trappings, with looming arched brick walls looking more like a prison than a place of worship; and Scarpia’s drab apartment in Act II. Bondy’s response has been to best reflect the times of the Napoleon Wars.
Puccini is still Puccini, and his timeless score of “Tosca,” well served by an exceptional cast and orchestral performance, will make up for any perceived shortcomings in staging. During the broadcast intermissions, behind the scenes views of the backstage production and interviews with the cast are added incentives for attending. Intermission snacks and beverages will also be served.