Art, Music, & Film: April 2006 Archives

Grand Opera--Tosca


Justly famous for the second act soprano aria Vissi d'Arte Tosca is a case in point of grand opera, and allows one to understand clearly the hidden reference of "soap opera."

From start to finish Tosca is melodrama. If one looks too closely at the plot it blows away into a billion pieces. By the end of the piece three major characters and the plot impetus (a relatively minor character) have died-one off-stage and three on-stage. However, this production was helped along by a soprano who had played the role both for the Met and for the San Francisco Opera Company (both redoubtable companies) and by excellent singers in all of the roles, major and minor.

What interests me about the Opera, seeing it for the first time and putting it into context, is the question of Puccini's view of the Church as expressed in the Opera. The first act takes palce entirely within a Church and begins with a Sacristan responding to the bell of the Angelus and ends with a Te Deum which is counterpointed by the villain of the piece Scarpia. The choral Te Deum is, also very discordant and very dark, incorporating into its music some of Scarpia's theme. In addition, just before Floria Tosca jumps from the parapet of the Castel Sant'Angelo at the end, she sings (in a melody reminiscent of the theme of her lover) to Scarpia that she will meet him before God--certainly an odd thing for a murderer/suicide to sing before leaping to her doom. (Samuel's reaction to this climactic scene was priceless, after the firing squad was done, he piped up with , "They shooted him!" I'm sure about half the theatre heard it.)

Tosca is filled with the lyrical, and perhaps occasionally overdone romantic melodies Puccini is famous for. The music is wonderful and contains some oddly "modern" elements in its discord and dissonance. The tenor aria of the final act E lucevan le stelle is another show-stopper with its transcendent melody and its underlying dark tones.

Samuel seemed to enjoy the experience, although he was a bit frightened at the firing squad scene and (fortunately) didn't seem to follow much of the plot line. He did however really go wild at the two major Arias and asked when we would go to the Opera again. So, this makes his third Opera and I'd say that overall the season was a success. I do have to say that of the performances he's seen this year--The Rockettes, Three Operas, and Lord of the Dance it is the last than made the biggest impression with him. And given that he is a somewhat kinetic little guy, that makes good sense.

Any way, I couldn't have been more pleased or impressed with this final show of the season. It certainly rang the curtain down on a resounding note. Orlando Opera may be a small company, but it is one that is well worth the time if you've any interest in Opera at all. I'm sorry it has taken me so long to discover it. Once again I succumb to the waywardness of cultural snobbery.

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This page is a archive of entries in the Art, Music, & Film category from April 2006.

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