Margaret Court Arena

Opera Australia

Margaret Court Arena
24 May – 30 May
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Power, passion and subterfuge make for a heady cocktail. And so it is in Opera Australia’s Tosca. It is a compelling thriller with a great deal of bite, being staged at Margaret Court Arena because the State Theatre is closed, while undergoing a three-year upgrade. Amidst the unrelenting drama, stirring arias and evocative set design predominate.

Photo by Jeff Busby

With Tosca, composer Giacomo Puccini did, indeed, created a masterpiece for the ages. Set in Rome in 1800, at a time of great political unrest, the story concerns the evil designs of corrupt police chief Scarpia. He is one of those characters you would definitely like to hiss, as became apparent at curtain fall on opening night.

A political prisoner, Angelotti, has just escaped and storms into a church seeking help. Accordingly, painter and revolutionary Mario Cavaradossi does right by him. At this stage, Angelotti’s escape has yet been uncovered, although it shortly will be.

In the meantime, Cavaradossi’s lover, the jealous diva Floria Tosca arrives and Angelotti hides. Tosca looks at a canvas Cavaradossi has painted and accuses him of having designs on another woman, which he assures her isn’t the case. A shot on the air indicates the start of the end game for Angelotti, with the police chief hot on his tail.

Scarpia will put the hard word on Cavaradossi, resorting to torture to uncover his quarry. That proves too much for Tosca, who has long been a fancy of his. Tosca takes matters into her own hands, but is deceived and more tragedy follows.

With the stirring sounds of Orchestra Victoria and the Orchestra Australia Chorus in full voice, Tosca’s emotional resonance is laid bare. The leads all impress. Conviction and angst underly the strength in soprano Karah Son’s realisation of Tosca.

The timbre and tone in the voice of leading tenor Diego Torre is electrifying as – on this occasion – he pours his heart into Cavaradossi. Robert Hayward is rich and redolent as the arrogant and self-serving Scarpia. Bass David Parkin, too, makes a strong entrance, with powerful vocalisation as Angelotti.

Tom Scutt’s sets feature prominent, well realised centrepieces in each act, including a stunning, suspended gilded dome, with a painted renaissance fresco. With skulduggery being the order of the day, lighting designer Lee Curan has exploited the use of shadow, while Jim Atkins’ sound design resonates.

Plaudits to Opera Australia for bringing Opera North’s stirring rendition of Tosca, directed by Edward Dick, to the fore. Two hours 40 minutes, including two 20-minute intervals, it is performed in Italian with English subtitles and is playing at Margaret Court Arena until 30th May, 2024.

Alex First

Alex First

Alex First believes all people have a story to tell, if only a good playwright can prize it out of them. Alex has a natural curiosity about the world and believes a strong narrative, or narrative with music, can open the door to subjects about which he knows little. Like his parents before him, theatre is his passion – a passion with emotional resonance, one that moves and excites him. He brings decades’ experience as an arts’ connoisseur to his role as a critic.
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