“I think that there are very few operas in which you so viscerally feel each character’s needs pounding through the score and driving each moment as actively as you do in Tosca. It’s a spectacularly well-configured drama, and if done properly, I believe can result in a thrilling, gripping, suspenseful evening of opera.
Furthermore, the characters are so richly crafted and exciting to get to know. In particular, in Floria Tosca, we see the quintessential diva — while stunningly beautiful and a master of her art, she is simultaneously demanding, jealous, loving and accusatory. In her, Puccini gives us a wonderfully rich portrait of an artistic soul who we should fall madly in love with, and I am incredibly excited to work with Jurate in crafting one of opera’s most vibrant and compelling heroines. Furthermore, I find the love that exists between Tosca and Cavaradossi to be so incredibly moving. In their romance, we see and experience true love, with all its tempests and complexities — and I feel very strongly that it is this deep love between these two people that is the engine of the opera.
One of the most interesting aspects of the story to me is the way it examines the relationship between faith and the secular world — all three of the story’s central characters — the famed singer Floria Tosca, her lover, the painter Mario Cavaradossi, and the Baron Scarpia — feel that they have very specific responsibilities to their country and to their god. Each has a very different view of how one ought to live, and what one’s duties are to one’s country, to the other people in it, and to a higher power — and the violent conflict between these beliefs and their resultant actions drives a good deal of this opera. Certainly the opera takes a strong anti-clerical stance — we’re first led to laugh at the quaint conventional religiosity of the Sacristan, and then horrified by the maniacal hedonism of Scarpia — a thoroughly corrupt figure who claims to be working in the name of the Church while actually serving his own completely godless agenda. And yet, Puccini and his librettists Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa are careful to indict the practitioners of faith while still preserving our belief that there are certain higher glories — in the form of art, beauty, nature, friendship, and most of all, love — that are worth devoting one’s life to. In this way, the opera celebrates true faith while pointing a finger at its false practitioners and showing the power of evil to suppress true grace.
These forces come to a head in the opera around a very specific historical event — the Battle of Marengo, on June 14, 1800 between the French army of Napoleon Bonaparte and the Austrian army led by General Michael von Melas that was fighting to keep Napoleon from taking Rome, which at the moment that the curtain rises was controlled by the Pope and governed through his secret police force, of which Scarpia is a part. Because these historical events play a major role in the action of the story, and because part of the opera’s magic is the realness of the characters and their circumstances, it’s important to me to root the production in the time and place in which it was written to be set in — specifically, Rome in the summer of 1800. So we’ll be taking a somewhat traditional approach to the production in an effort to create a real world in which we can truly believe in the characters we’re watching.
I come to Tosca from the classical theatre world, with much of my experience being in Shakespeare — who, like the great opera composers, was a master of crafting human truth through a heightened theatrical form. I am very excited to work on this amazing masterpiece with this wonderfully welcoming and exciting company, and I look forward to bringing Puccini’s incredible work to the stage.”