Wow! An opera with zing, excitement, pizzazz and all those other qualities that have so often been missing from Opera Australia’s begrudging offerings to Melbourne audiences. Suffice to say the Tosca that opened in the State Theatre last night under the Opera Australia banner is an Opera North production from the UK.
Like other productions from this company, Puccini’s masterpiece has been taken out of the time and place with which most of us are familiar.
Gone are all the ornate and plush settings, vaulted rooms, massive drapes and castle battlements. The entire piece takes place in a grotty cellar within the church where Cavaradossi and Tosca hold their fateful assignations. Posters for the shameful Berlosconi’s political party line the walls.The evil Scarpia (and there is none more wicked than the version provided here by John Wegner) is a seedy cop with two even seeder, and equally sinister, sidekicks looking like latter-day Colombos. The sacristan posts up the lottery numbers for the congregation to check their tickets. A gaoler comes eqipped with electrical leads for applying torture.
It is billed as a cross between Beckett and Tarantino, with maybe a touch of Scorsese and it is a modernisation that never disappoints. The singing is excellent. Who could not be thrilled by Nicole Youl‘s strong and vibrant voice. or by the lyrical and equally powerful arias of Rosario La Spina – a singer still youthful with his best years still to come?
It’s a real thriller on all counts – a great opening to a promising season.