A lavish production of “Tosca,” one of Giacomo Puccini’s most popular works, is currently gracing the stage of the Kennedy Center opera house.
Set in 18th century Rome, “Tosca” opens in a cavernous church in which our hero, Cavaradossi (Riccardo Massi) is painting a mural of Mary Magdalene. His old friend Angelotti (Michael Hewitt), having just escaped from prison, bursts on the scene, seeking Cavaradossi’s help. Tosca (Keri Alkem) appears and Angelotti quickly hides.
…a production that immerses the audience in the universal themes of love, tragedy, and intrigue, embraces Puccini’s unique artistry, and leaves each listener drenched in immense beauty.
Tosca, who has overheard their voices, accuses Cavaradossi of talking to another woman before jealously eyeing the painting, an image of the Marchesa Attavanti. Cavaradossi, however, reassures her of his faithfulness.
Act II unfolds in Baron Scarpia’s (Alan Held) opulent apartment. Scarpia, Rome’s corrupt chief of police, has captured Cavaradossi, believing he had assisted in Angelotti’s escape. Tosca, unable to withstand the thought of Cavaradossi suffering at the hands of Scarpia’s agents, agrees to a deal. She will submit to Scarpia’s advances in return for Cavaradossi’s life and freedom. Scarpia signs a document guaranteeing the lovers’ safe passage. When he turns to Tosca to collect on their bargain, however, Tosca grabs a knife and stabs him to death.
As the curtain opens on Act III, Tosca discovers that Scarpia had no intention of honoring their agreement. Cavaradossi is shot by a firing squad, and Tosca, in her grief, and now suspected of murdering Scarpia, jumps from a parapet to her death.
The score features some of opera’s best-loved arias, of which the cast delivered stirring and passionate renderings. Alkem (Tosca) deftly communicated her anguish and desperation in Vissi d’arte vissi d’amore (I live for art, I live for love) with a soaring soprano that effortlessly negotiated the music’s vocal and dramatic demands. Massi (Cavaradossi) beautifully conveyed the intensity of the moment and his ardent love for Tosca in E lucevan le stelle (The stars were shining brightly). And Held’s (Scarpia) rich and powerful baritone gifted the audience with a masterful Te deum.
Conductor Speranza Scappucci leads the Washington National Opera Orchestra with intelligence and sensitivity, conjuring a seamless unity of instruments and voices that intensified the rich and haunting beauty of Puccini’s melodies. Sumptuous costumes by Lena Rivkina and lighting design by Gary Marder complimented the period scenery that so powerfully evoked the spirit and aura of the eternal city.
The Washington National Opera has brought the timeless splendor of “Tosca” to life once again in a production that immerses the audience in the universal themes of love, tragedy, and intrigue, embraces Puccini’s unique artistry, and leaves each listener drenched in immense beauty.
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours with two 25-minute intermissions.
“Tosca” runs until May 25 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2700 F St NW, Washington, DC 20566. For information or to purchase tickets, click here.