Opera North's Tosca Review | The Lowry | Manchester
Edward Dick’s dazzling production of Puccini’s Tosca takes the winding melodrama to new heights with divine staging and powerful performances.
The Lowry audience are heading off to Rome for an intriguing tale of corruption, murder and love. Showcasing the outrageously high stakes that only an opera can offer, the character driven story circles around the impulsive Tosca (Giselle Allen), a talented opera performer who wears her heart on her sleeve. Despite being an irresistible siren to the men around her, Tosca suffers from inconsolable jealousy and fears of losing her soul mate, painter Mario (Mykhailo Malafii) to a woman he is currently sketching in church. With the decadent space spotlighting the religious iconography, Opera North’s production shines as its positions the cast under the watchful eye of Mario’s mural, blending spirituality and desire into the murderous plot.
As Mario becomes enmeshed in helping his friend, a political prisoner escape without alerting Tosca, and crucially, the villainous head of the secret police, Scarpia (Robert Hayward), he risks execution for his friend's freedom. With the ghoulish Scarpia’s unrequited love for Tosca adding to his venom, Hayward plays the prickly character with vigour. Brimming with menace as his inhumane and disturbing whims threatened to veil Tosca in sorrow. As a result, the soundtrack moves from the alluring duet of Allen and Malafii as their powerful vocals offer a first act confession of love, to a second act solo of Allen’s resistance and defiance. It is an unexpected transition, bringing a second act twist from the deceptively vulnerable Tosca. Performing the song, Vissi d’arte (I live for art) in a brilliantly chilling scene before driving the story into a thorny third act.
Tosca is a fast-paced opera, which leaves little time to catch your breath. Its endless drama and captivating performances make it a perfect steppingstone for first time opera goers, with music that continues to be featured in films and television, from Quantum of Solace to the Peaky Blinders. The beautifully crafted and lyrically dense production continues to resonate as Opera North enrich Puccini’s tale with stunning visuals, worthy of multiple viewings.
Opera North’s lofty drama is encompassed in Tom Scutt’s ornate stage design, where floor to ceiling spotlights act as blinding lens of interrogation, flashes of hope and finality throughout the production. Alongside Fotini Dimou’s more modern costume design, the 1900 opera stitches a thematically rich and vibrant production that allows each act to sweep over the audience in waves. Love and art reach out to every character (and gets everyone into some trouble), but Tosca extends that reach to its audience, determined to leave a lasting impression from its live orchestration, indulgent characters and lavish set design.
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Tickets are available via the Lowry link