Thrilling opera ‘Tosca’ comes to Whitefish

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The new David McVicar production of Giacomo Puccini’s melodramatic thriller “Tosca” will be shown at the Whitefish Performing Arts Center and in cinemas nationwide on Saturday, Jan. 27 at 10:55 a.m.

The opera is sung in Italian with English subtitles and run time is 2 hours 53 minutes, including two intermissions. Tickets for the Whitefish PAC broadcast are available at the door for $20 adults/$5 students/$10 college students, cash or check.

The basic plot is as follows: The painter Mario Cavaradossi helps Angelotti, an escaped political prisoner, hide from the police. Floria Tosca, a singer, suspects her boyfriend Mario of being unfaithful. Evil Police Chief Scarpia wants Tosca for himself and inflames her jealousy and vows that he will bend Tosca to his will. Scarpia imprisons Mario and tortures him for information about Angelotti to get Tosca to reveal his hiding place.

News arrives that Napoleon won the battle, and Mario cries out in support. Scarpia takes Mario away to be executed. Scarpia offers a deal to Tosca: he will free Mario in exchange for Tosca’s love.

She agrees, but the moment Scarpia signs a safe conduct pass, she kills him with a knife. Tosca tells Mario that he is free, but he has to endure a mock execution before he can flee the city. The firing squad shoots what was to be fake bullets, but Mario falls down dead. Tosca then leaps from the battlement to her own death.

Why should you come to Tosca? It is about love, jealousy, lust, betrayal, torture, murder and suicide — all set to Puccini’s glorious score that supports such drama.

Tosca the opera is heralded with superlatives. It is one of the most-performed operas in the world, a real crowd-pleaser. Its opening chords are as good as they get in opera. The brutally terrifying Act 2 is supposedly one of the greatest opera acts of all time, featuring Chief of Police Scarpia, one of opera’s most dastardly characters. It features Mario Cavaradossi the heroic artist and revolutionary who endures unspeakable torture to protect a friend and then goes on to sing an unspeakably high sustained A-sharp. And of course, Floria Tosca is one of the most coveted soprano roles in the repertoire, for Puccini truly loved his soprano heroines.

One never knows how well a soprano will come across in her role as Floria Tosca; in this role more than most, the range of emotion the soprano can convey seems to be as important as the quality of her singing. In Act 1, Tosca is a self-absorbed diva; in Act 2, she is a resourceful female grizzly bear with cubs; in Act 3, she is a strong, wise, self-aware woman. The performance of any soprano who plays Tosca is compared to the legendary Maria Callas, the Met’s quintessentially volatile Tosca of the mid-20th century.

She was as famous for her wild outbursts offstage as she was for her onstage acting. The world remembers her rage when her longtime lover Aristotle Onassis left her to marry Jackie Kennedy. Critics have given a thumbs-up to young Bulgarian soprano Sonya Yoncheva as Tosca; they even scrutinized how she jumped from the rooftop in the final scene and heartily approved.

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