March 5, 2001
Seattle Opera's 'Tosca' is thrilling
by Deborah Stone
Start with passionate love. Add a dose of jealousy and a hefty portion of desire. Stir in some intrigue, murder and suicide and mix all the ingredients up among three memorable characters.
The result is a thrilling and dramatic night at Seattle Opera's production of Giacomo Puccini's "Tosca."
Soprano Carol Vaness, last seen at Seattle Opera in "Il torovatore" (1997), returns as the passionate prima donna Floria Tosca.
The talented singer embodies her role completely and makes the most of her moving and expressive arias, especially "Vissi d'arte," which she performs crouching on the floor, as Puccini had envisioned. Vaness is full of compassion and fiery spirit and she gives great credibility to the role of Tosca.
The audience sees her strength and believes in her capacity to destroy evil, as well as in her motives for eventually committing suicide.
Her lover, the famed painter Cavaradossi, is sung by the well-known tenor Vinson Cole.
Cole displays Cavaradossi's fervor for life and liberty and his love of Tosca with an aching longing that easily tugs at the emotional heartstrings and makes the audience mourn at the shock of his death. His voice is liquidy smooth, full of youth's dreams and hopes for the future.
Metropolitan Opera bass-baritone Greer Grimsley makes an imposing Scarpia, the diabolical police chief of Rome who wants Tosca for his own.
Last seen at the Seattle Opera in 1998 in "Tristan und Isolde," Grimsley is in complete command of this juicy role and sings it brilliantly. His body language, facial expressions and voice embody the lecherous, power-mad Scarpia, who takes joy in manipulating people as a means to breaking them down.
Seattle Opera's staging of this famed opera is elegant with its lovely set design depicting scenes of Rome in 1900 and its period style costumes.
Conductor Antonello Allemandi gets a fine performance from the orchestra, allowing it to show off its talents with Puccini's swelling and powerful music.
"Tosca" has worldwide popularity for its ability to evoke a strong response from its listeners, who get swept into the story and are gripped with an intensity that stays with them throughout the show.
It is a perfect opera for newcomers to the art of this medium because it has an easily understood plot, a beautiful lyrical and theatrical score and is shorter in length than many other operas.
The fact that it contains elements of human tragedy amidst life and death stakes only adds to its ability to take listeners for a ride of their lives.
"Tosca" runs through March 10 at the Seattle Opera House. For ticket information call (206) 389-7676.