When I went: 11 January 2016
Location: Royal Opera House, London
Performers: Angela Gheorghiu (Tosca), Riccardo Massi (Cavaradossi), Samuel Youn (Scarpia)
Creative team: Puccini (music), Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa (libretto), Jonathan Kent (director)
Approximate price: £215
Special points: Simple staging
Best bit: Scrapping in romance between Tosca and Cavaradossi
If I could change one thing: More characters to complicate the story
Tosca is one of Puccini’s most famous operas, with some gorgeous music typical of late 19th-century Romanticism. There is a fairly simple story focusing on the heroine Tosca, her lover Cavaradossi and the evil Scarpia, with the common themes of love, sex and death which are also explored ad infinitum in Wagner’s works.
I was excited to visit the Royal Opera House and was not disappointed; it is beautiful, grand and sumptuous, with a great bar, and as there were two intervals in the performance we had ample time to sample the drinks and food on offer. We pre-ordered some drinks for one of the intervals which meant they were all ready next to our names. Breaking up the opera with two intervals is a good idea given the heavy subject-matter. I had thought having the English subtitles above the stage would be off-putting but actually they worked really well and meant that people who couldn’t understand all the Italian could still follow everything.
Angela Gheorghiu was fabulously petulant and imperious as Tosca, injecting some humour into the performance especially before the final scenes where she advised Cavaradossi that “you will not be able to act as well as Tosca” – gotta love characters who refer to themselves in the third person. Samuel Youn was wonderfully nasty as Scarpia; the material is a bit “pantomime” in its lack of complexity but he still did a good job.