One of the most frequently performed operas in the world, the San Diego Opera continues its phoenix-like rebirth with a solid production of Puccini’s classic.
Set in Rome in June 1800, the opera premiered there a century later. Although its controversial plot (based on Sardou’s 1887 French-language dramatic play) and bold orchestrations were initially shocking, the opera has taken its place in the canon. Love, torture, murder and suicide are the basic ingredients, and with a deft hand by director Lesley Koenig the current production is excellent.
The love triangle is composed of singer Tosca (Alexia Voulgaridou), artist Cavaradossi (Gwyn Hughes Jones) and the evil chief of police Scarpia (Greer Grimsley) who frames the former to seduce the latter.
Conductor Massimo Zanetti and the 69 person orchestra provide a lush sonic support for the cast.
The magnificent scenery in each of the three distinct settings is based on actual Roman locations. The “throne” chair in Scarpia’s room in Act 2 has been used in nearly every SDO Tosca production since 1972. It was built that year with frame pieces bought from Italy and assembled and upholstered locally. Another intriguing production note is that the crash pad behind the wall (spoiler alert, as if it was needed) for Tosca’s suicide jump was loaned again to SDO from the gymnastic department of nearby Santana High. There are 250 lights in the show that range from 50 watts to 5000 watts, with most of the units being 575 watts. The combined wattage of all the lights in the show is 304,000 watts, which is equal to over 5000 standard 60 watt bulbs, or 250 1200watt hair driers. The attention to detail is reflected in the production’s budget, which is in excess of $1.5 million.
The three leads perform magnificently, and the remainder of the expansive cast supports the production admirably.