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Saturday 7 December 2019

Review - Opera: Tosca, National Concert Hall, Dublin

David Angus.
David Angus.

Pat O'Kelly

'Tosca', Puccini's most melodramatic opera, is also his most marvellously concise. Hardly a note is wasted in his three powerful acts based on Victorien Sardou's play that runs a gamut of love, intrigue, dissipation and downright villainy.

In this production by Lyric Opera, the sets work well within the confines of the National Concert Hall's stage. Act I's Church of Sant'Andrea della Valle looks quite spacious, with the painter Cavaradossi working of his canvas of Mary Magdalene with ladders and scaffold in situ.

The large crucifix dominating Act II's Farnese Palace apartment is somewhat over the top even allowing for Scarpia's perverted religious sentiments. But Act III's Castel Sant'Angelo's roof is convincingly stark and eerie.

Lyric's costumes fail to recognise the opera's historical action taking place in Rome in June 1800. This would not matter all that much except that Floria Tosca's outfits are far from flattering and are topped by an incongruously tilted red hat.

Musical matters fare better, something more important than silly millinery. I am expecting Cara O'Sullivan in the title role, but her replacement – English soprano Naomi Harvey – is assured and brightly toned even if a little harsh.

She catches the flickers of Tosca's jealously quite succinctly as she sees a face other than her own in Cavaradossi's painting. In her encounter with the lascivious Scarpia, Ms Harvey conveys Tosca's anguished vulnerability as well as her sudden fiery impulsiveness. In between, her prayerful 'Vissi d'arte' is an emotional cry for deliverance.

Iranian baritone Anooshah Golesorkhi unearths a store of malevolence in his portrayal of the repellent Chief of Police but his interpretation comes at a consistent, and eventually tiresome, 'forte' level.

US tenor Michael Ward Lee is particularly satisfying as the aristocratic Cavaradossi. His voice retains its securely well-rounded and heroic stance throughout the evening and his final 'E lucevan le stelle' aria is also sensitively appealing. This refined quality continues into the opera's final duet between the ill-fated lovers.

Subordinate roles are filled with varying degrees of menace, but a delightful vignette comes through Tom Asher's Act I Sacristan.

Under conductor David Angus, pit – RTÉCO – and platform are at one with Angus eliciting a willing response from his musicians. Lyric's Chorus move with solemn propriety, while the Palestrina Choir's acolytes are suitably jubilant with the promise of extra pay for a 'Te Deum'.

Irish Independent

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