First performed in 1900, Giacomo Puccini's opera Tosca is a tale of passion and betrayal, set 100 years earlier during a single tumultuous night in Rome. The cavalier Mario Cavaradossi (Roberto Alagna, who bears a certain resemblance to Russell Crowe) has been commissioned to paint a portrait of Mary Magdalene for the private chapel of the Attavanti family...read more
First performed in 1900, Giacomo Puccini's opera Tosca is a tale of passion and betrayal, set 100 years earlier during a single tumultuous night in Rome. The cavalier Mario Cavaradossi (Roberto Alagna, who bears a certain resemblance to Russell Crowe) has been commissioned to paint a portrait of Mary Magdalene for the private chapel of the Attavanti family in the Sant' Andrea della Valle church. The magdalene's face is modeled after that of the Marchesa Attavanti, but Cavaradossi's thoughts are only of the beautiful singer Floria Tosca (Angela Ghorghiu), who comes to the chapel to pray. Tosca's great flaw is jealousy, and she regularly suspects Cavaradossi of cheating on her. As Cavaradossi finishes his day's work, the Marchesa's brother, Cesare Angelotti (Maurizio Muraro), stumbles into the chapel looking for help. He has just escaped from jail, where he was a political prisoner, and Cavaradossi spirits him away moments before the corrupt and cruel chief of secret police, Baron Scarpia (Ruggero Raimondi), and his men burst in. Scarpia finds a fan bearing the crest of the Attavani family and, suspecting that Cavaradossi has taken pity on the fugitive Angelotti, uses the fan to make Tosca believe her lover is dallying with the Marchesa. Scarpia is convinced she'll lead him straight to Cavaradossi and Angelotti, but though Tosca does indeed succumb to jealousy, Scarpia fails to find Angelotti. So he has Cavaradossi arrested and tortured within Tosca's earshot, at the same time making it clear that if she'll sleep with him he might spare Cavaradossi. As it does in so many operas, all ends badly. Director Benoit Jacquot stages the story on three oversized sets the chapel, Scarpia's rooms at the Palazzo Farnese and the courtyard where Cavaradossi is to face the firing squad whose edges fall off into black shadow, occasionally interpolating footage of the real locations that inspired Puccini. He also cuts back and forth between his cast in full costume and make-up and the same singers in the studio, recording their parts with the Orchestra and Chorus of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, conducted by Antonio Pappano. The performance sequences are in color, while the recording sequences are in B&W. Jacquot's strategy allows his cast the benefit of being able to give full performances (Raimondi is a particularly good film actor) while demonstrating vividly that the beauty and power of the opera reside primarily in the music itself.
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