Palm Beach Opera – Puccini’s Tosca – Anastasia Bartoli, Mario Chang & Greer Grimsley; directed by Omer Ben Seadia; conducted by David Stern

Tosca – melodramma in three Acts to a libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa & Luigi Illica, based on the play La Tosca by Victorien Sardou [sung in Italian, with English supertitles by Cori Ellison]

Floria Tosca – Anastasia Bartoli
Mario Cavaradossi – Mario Chang
Baron Scarpia – Greer Grimsley
Sacristan – Adelmo Guidarelli
Cesare Angelotti – Edward Thomas Bland
Spoletta – Devin Eatmon
Sciarrone – David Wolfe
Jailer – Jacob O’Shea
Shepherd – Maya Brown

Chorus & Orchestra of Palm Beach Opera
David Stern

Omer Ben Seadia – Director
Lee Soroko – Fight Director
Keith Brumley – Scenic Designer
Lena Rivkina – Costume Designer
Joe Beumer – Lighting Designer
Anika Seitu – Hair & Wig Designer
Ali Pohanka – Makeup Designer
Gregory Ritchey — Associate Conductor & Chorus Master

Reviewed by: David M. Rice

Reviewed: 26 January, 2024
Venue: Dreyfoos Concert Hall, Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, West Palm Beach, Florida

This Palm Beach Opera production of Tosca superbly conveys both the beauty of Puccini’s music and the suspenseful drama of the Sardou play from which the opera is adapted. David Stern led a spirited rendition of the score, and Omer Ben Seadia’s stage direction brought the action of this political-romantic thriller to life with great emotional impact. R. Keith Brumley’s designs represent the three Roman locales at which the action takes place, with Baron Scarpia’s Palazzo Farnese apartment in Act Two especially gorgeous.

Anastasia Bartoli is every bit the diva in her portrayal of Floria Tosca, deeply religious and in love with Cavaradossi, but extremely jealous, making her susceptible to Scarpia’s manipulations. She sings with both elegance and power, her deeply moving rendition of ‘Vissi d’arte’ expressive of Tosca’s despair, in contrast to her joyous duets with Mario Chang’s Cavaradossi in Acts One and Three. Bartoli also brings out the humorous side of Tosca’s character, both in her obsessive suspicions and when instructing Cavaradossi how to feign being executed.

Chang’s potent and penetrating tenor befits Cavaradossi’s ardent and heroic personality. He expresses his love for Tosca in the lyrical ‘Recondita armonia’ in Act One (replete with interjections from Adelmo Guidarelli, who excels as the Sacristan). That love never wavers, apart from a momentary outburst upon learning that Tosca has betrayed a vital secret. Cavaradossi is equally passionate in his political convictions, helping Angelotti to escape and defying Scarpia even under torture, thrilling in his cry of ‘Vittoria! Vittoria!’ when he hears of Napoleon’s victory at Marengo. Chang’s ‘E lucevan le stelle’ in Act Three is a heartbreaking recollection of happier times, with a beautifully played clarinet solo adding poignancy to the moment.

Greer Grimsley is a truly menacing Scarpia, sexually aggressive toward Tosca and physically abusive even to his own operative Sciarrone. His voice soars but takes on a sweeter tone when Scarpia seeks to induce Tosca to reveal Angelotti’s hiding place. The second Act crackles with tension as Scarpia interacts with Tosca, Cavaradossi and his own henchmen and finally meets his demise at Tosca’s hand. The remaining roles are ably performed and the chorus and children’s chorus give a fine account of the ‘Te Deum’ at the end of Act One.

·        Palm Beach Opera’s current season will continue with Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann in March and conclude in April with Bellini’s Norma.

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