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Tosca by Opera Queensland

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by JC (subscribe)
I have a had a life-long love of the arts; enjoying theatre, ballet, art and movies. We are all time poor and have limits to our entertainment budget so I hope an honest review will help make your choices easier.
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Lust, betrayal and cold-blooded murder

This June Opera Queensland will present a new production of Puccini's politically-charged thriller Tosca, directed by Opera Queensland's Artistic Director Patrick Nolan, conducted by Oliver von Dohnányi, and featuring an all-star cast headlined by New York based Australian soprano Rachelle Durkin.

Tosca was first performed in 1900, however, 120 years on its relevance is undiminished. "Tosca is often described as the greatest opera of them all, owing in large part to Puccini's exquisite score. Yet, as a story, Tosca still has so much insight and relevance for contemporary audiences. The questions it asks and the social, political and economic scenarios it examines keep it alive to the here and now," Nolan said.

Tosca, Opera Queensland, Rachelle Durkin
Rachelle Durkin

Opera Queensland's 2019 production of Tosca reunites Nolan with award-winning Australian soprano Rachelle Durkin, whom he directed a decade ago in John Adams' A Flowering Tree at the 2009 Perth International Arts Festival. "I realised that Rachelle not only has an exquisite voice, but she's a marvellous actor too," Nolan said. "This will be her debut in the role, which is very exciting. I expect that in years to come, audiences at this production will take great delight in being able to say they were there when Rachelle Durkin sang Tosca for the first time".

Tosca will transport the Queensland Performing Arts Centre's (QPAC's) Lyric Theatre back to 1970s Italy where political and religious tensions are at breaking point. The production will play out against the era's backdrop of labour strikes, political assassinations, rioting, bombings, attempted coups, and the influence of religious factions on government.

In a towering cathedral, the artist Cavaradossi (Angus Wood) is engrossed in his painting. When escaped political prisoner Angelotti (Sam Hartley) bursts in, Cavaradossi risks his own life to help him hide from police. Scarpia (José Carbó), Rome's tyrannical Chief of Police, suspects Cavaradossi has helped Angelotti to escape. When the famous opera singer Tosca (Durkin) arrives, Scarpia convinces her that Cavaradossi has betrayed her. What ensues is a gripping tale of lust, betrayal and cold-blooded murder unfolding at breakneck pace.

Nolan said the decision to shift the action from its original 19th century setting to 1970s Italy amplified Tosca's strength. "The 1970s saw a second wave of feminism emerge, with women claiming their place in a world that had previously refused them," Nolan said.

Tosca Opera Queensland

The world of Nolan's Tosca is brought to life by Tony Award-nominated Australian designer Dale Ferguson, who first designed for Opera Queensland 25 years ago. "Patrick had already established he wanted to set it in the '70s, so I just threw myself into looking at the Italian political climate at the time seeking cross-references with the original opera which was set around the time of the Napoleonic Wars," Ferguson said.

Regarded as one of Puccini's greatest soprano roles alongside Turandot, Nolan said it was more vital than ever for strong female characters to take centre stage. "Even though Tosca dies at the end, she dies of her own hand. She decides that her integrity as a woman and as an artist is more important to her than life itself. I think that's particularly interesting" Nolan said.

Opera Queensland's Tosca plays five performances at the Lyric Theatre, QPAC from 13 – 22 June 2019. For tickets and further information, available here.

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Why? Opera experience
When: 13 - 22 June
Where: QPAC Lyric Theatre
Cost: $42 - $184
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