Giacomo Puccini is universally hailed as "the greatest composer of Italian opera after Verdi" famed for La bohème (1896) Madame Butterfly (1904), and Turandot (1924), all of which together (with Tosca) are regularly in the top ten operas performed worldwide. Puccini himself said that his gift was to present "great sorrows in little souls".
The plot begins in a church, where the painter Cavaradossi is working. An escaped prisoner (Angelotti) bursts in. Cavaradossi risks his own life to help Angelotti hide. Tosca (a beautiful and devout actress) and Cavaradossi have a tempestuous lovers' quarrel. Cavaradossi is arrested by the ruthless and psychopathic police chief. Tosca is made to hear her lover being tortured and given the choice between saving her virtue or the life of her beloved.
As Patrick Nolan, the Artistic Director writes " It's sad to reflect that whether it is 1800,1970, or 2019 the manipulation and domination she experiences... is neither unusual or surprising".
All of Puccini's operas have set pieces around which hinge the success of the evening. Tosca has two. The first is - 'Vissi d'arte', where Tosca laments her fate, that despite her never having caused harm to another, she is being forced to make a choice which will harm herself and her beloved.
The second is "E lucevan le stele" where Cavaradossi, sentenced to death, wistfully celebrates happier times.
It was evident from the audience's reaction that neither aria has lost its ability to communicate powerful emotion through beautiful music, where the skill of the singer belies the extreme difficulty of the music.
The beauty of the music and the powerful and still relevant tensions of the plot should make for unforgettable opera – "great sorrows in little souls".
Which is where unfortunately your aged reviewer has some caveats.
If one changes the era in which a work is set, the change needs to add to the drama. Unfortunately, it seems to me that the glamour of the original has been subtracted, and (with the exception of the villainous police chief) not a great deal has been added.
So I suggest that if you come to this production of Tosca, come for the glorious music, and come for the stand-out arias.
On the evening we were there, the glorious parts did not quite make as magnificent a whole as one might have hoped for.
That said, at the end of the performance, the audience rose to their feet in thunderous applause.
Tosca Rachelle Durkin
Cavaradossi Angus Wood
Scarpia José Carbó
Spoletta Gregory Massingham
Sciarrone David Hibbard
Angelotti Sam Hartley
Sacristan & Gaoler Shaun Brown
Cleaner (Shepherd Solo) Jessica Low
Opera Queensland Chorus
Opera Queensland Children's Chorus
Queensland Symphony Orchestra