An enthusiastic crowd gave the IU Opera Theatre’s Saturday night performance of Puccini’s "Tosca" a nearly unanimous standing ovation. Imre Pallo was the conductor; the staging was by guest Dorothy Danner. The dramatic sets, borrowed from the Virginia Opera, fitted so well into the impressive IU Auditorium that they looked as if they had been custom designed for the house.
The story of "Tosca" could come right out recent newspapers. There’s a brutal corrupt dictator. There are peace loving, idealistic, citizens driven to rebellion and the hope that an outside force will help with the overthrow of the tyrant.
Howard Swyers sang potently as the dreadful Baron Scarpia. Patrick Mero’s lighting made Scarpia’s entry, surrounded by dark clad shadowy henchman, a very scary experience. As "Tosca" went on, Scarpia continues to reveal one vicious layer after another. Though Swyers’ singing continued to go well, he simply looked so darned young and innocent that it worked better when I just listened.
Guest tenor Nicolas Coppolo played the courageous rebellious painter Cavaradossi with a lyrical sweetness. Coppolo was an alert presence on stage, but seemed to go through the entire production with a single facial expression.
Samuel Spade was effective as a much put-upon sacristan. Todd Wieczorek was a sympathetic figure as the abused political prisoner Cesare Angelotti. The chorus, as with most IU choruses, was glorious. The children’s chorus was thoroughly drilled, precise and precious.
Although Cavaradossi is the painter in the opera, it is Tosca herself who has the widest canvas to paint upon. Tosca begins as a flirtatiously jealous girl. She wishes that her painter would spend less time on the scaffold and more time with her and Tosca is more than a little irked that his latest painting seems to have the eyes of another woman. Through the opera she becomes a courageous and resourceful figure willing to kill to defend herself and her love. Rachel Holland’s curtain call cued the Saturday night audience to its standing ovation.
The IU Opera Theatre’s production of "Tosca" worked very well in the grand space of the IU Auditorium. Earlier this summer, the musical "She Loves Me," fitted well in the intimate Ruth N. Halls Theatre. Still, I’m happy to report that the work on the Musical Arts Center is going well and I look forward to being back at the MAC for "La Boheme" in September.