Anthony Besch’s production of Tosca, set in Rome in 1943 on the eve of Mussolini’s defeat, does not appear to have aged since its first production in 1980. Indeed, in Jonathan Cocker’s revival for Scottish opera it feels as contemporary as ever.
Peter Rice’s grand and authentic-looking design dominates the production but does not dwarf the opera’s emotional power, thanks to a trio of of consistently strong and subtle main performances.
Natalya Romaniw has a quiet power as the diva Tosca. Vocally she can slip from contemplative to outraged without seeming to change gear; her Tosca is both coquettish and genuinely jealous of her lover, the painter Cavaradossi.
Roland Wood brings a snake-like fascination to the role of police chief Scarpia, making his crushing of Tosca all the more brutal in its malevolence. Indeed, post #MeToo, his actions and capacity for violence feels horribly realistic, both in terms of how we understand the excesses of the Fascists and, more generally, men with power.
By contrast, Gwyn Hughes Jones’ Cavaradossi is quite the rebel and the romantic. His impetuous running off with the escaped prisoner Angelotti in Act I feels less an act of folly, as it can do, but quite consistent with his utterly glorious Act III aria, as he loses all composure while attempting to write his final letter to Tosca.
There are strongly nuanced performances from the supporting roles. With conductor Stuart Stratford’s sumptuously cinematic interpretation of Puccini’s score, they ensure that the story is being advanced for every second of this still-glorious production.