Get our free email newsletter with just one click

Tosca review at Grand Theatre, Leeds – ‘an unforgettable operatic experience’

The cast of Tosca at Grand Theatre, Leeds. Photo: Richard H Smith
by -

Puccini’s Tosca is generally agreed to be the pre-eminent operatic thriller, but rarely does it pack such a sequence of visceral punches as it does in Edward Dick’s observant production, tautly conducted by Antony Hermus.

Designers Tom Scutt and Fotini Dimou move the plot from the original setting – Rome in 1800, with Napoleon’s army not far away, and those sympathising with him in imminent danger if not actually in prison – to some undefined but brutal modern dictatorship. Scarpia watches Tosca singing her cantata and the torture of Cavaradossi on his laptop. His henchmen have hi-tech communications to aid them in their vicious schemes.

All of this works well, but what gives the show its edge-of-the-seat quality are individual performances that are minutely focused and which meld together to maintain a vice-like grip that doesn’t loosen for a second.

Vocally and dramatically all three principals are rock solid. Rafael Rojas convinces as the brave – if not actually foolhardy – artist Cavaradossi, his ardent tone matching his impulsive nature. Robert Hayward has done nothing finer than this Scarpia, a complex portrayal of one of the great villains sung with terrifying command.

In the title role Giselle Allen explores every facet of the vulnerable, volatile diva, making a highlight of her description of her murder of would-be rapist Scarpia – a moment that rarely registers as powerfully as here. Her combination of passion and discipline proves infallible.

Secondary roles – John Savournin’s firmly sung, understandably fearful Angelotti, Rupert Charlesworth’s borderline psychopathic Spoletta, Ben Hayes’ immaculately voiced Shepherd Boy – add further distinction. Opera North’s chorus and orchestra send shivers down your spine in the Te Deum.

But it’s the integrity – musical and dramatic – of the whole that makes this Tosca an unforgettable operatic experience.


We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price
Edward Dick’s thrilling production performed by a superb cast