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Tosca – B cast review at Royal Opera House London

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Franco Zeffirelli’s legendary Tosca for the Royal Opera is a tricky one to supplant, having been in the company repertory for over 40 years. Yet Covent Garden’s trust in Jonathan Kent, former joint artistic director of the Almeida Theatre, has largely been well placed.

Though less sumptuous than their predecessors, Paul Brown’s sets still capture the opulence of the Baroque church of Sant’Andrea della Valle, a split level allowing an upper arena for Act I’s climactic Te Deum. The Act II apartment of the manipulative chief of police Scarpia makes a feature of its barren bookshelves. The low-lying sloping wall of the Castel Sant’Angelo’s ramparts in the final act are comparatively sparse, but effective in revealing Cavaradossi’s isolation as he waits for the firing squad.

The diva Tosca and her lover are effectively sung in this second casting by Catherine Naglestad and Nicola Rossi Giordano – she vocally robust and he with a suitable combination of lyric and dramatic qualities. Samuel Ramey returns to the role of Scarpia, this time more openly conniving, though you don’t quite buy into him supposedly losing his senses as he declares “Tosca, you make me forget God”. And similarly Tosca seems neither pained by Cavaradossi’s torture nor by Scarpia’s loathsome lasciviousness.

What is truly compelling about this Tosca, however, is Antonio Pappano’s passionate grip of the score. It’s hard to imagine a more detailed, Technicolor rendering. As it happens, the Royal Opera’s greatest asset in this new production is not on the stage but in the pit.

Production Information

Royal Opera House, London, June 22, 27, 29, July 3, 5, 8

Jonathan Kent
Royal Opera
Cast includes
Nicola Rossi Giordano, Catherine Naglestad, Samuel Ramey, Gregory Bonfatti
Running time
3hrs 20 mins

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