We didn’t intend it but we ended up saving the best for last. Tosca was fantastic, the opera hall was magnificent and the staging, sets and seats were the best yet! We had bought the tickets while still in Hawaii so had long forgotten they were the fabled third row center seats yet again. This time center meant that the conductor was exactly 8′ in front of my seat! So close in fact that I could resist walking up front between acts and taking a picture of his score. It felt like quite an honor to be able to see it, setting on its lit podium, baton at the ready just to its right. Click the image and scroll to the side [if needed] to see it all, I thought it was way cool -to use a particularly non-opera-like phrase… What the picture didn’t really capture well enough were his margin notes and like, also way cool!
Anyway, the theater, built in 1888, has had music directors such as Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss and hosted untold numbers of “meistersingers” . The interior was quite elaborate and in every direction features some carving or relief of angels on high. Neo-Rococo to be precise, over-the-top.
And then there’s Puccini! He was being roundly toasted across Italy in 1895 for his success with the opera Manon Lescaut while at the same time ignoring some friendly gooses from his peer Giuseppe Verdi urging him to move forward with Tosca. Why, because he was up to his ears finishing La Boheme. He finally wrapped that up by the
end of the year and started in earnest on Tosca in 1896. It took him 4 years to finish the score and get it to the stage where, in its first performance in January of 1900 – in Rome, it was hailed as an instant success. To this day it remains the most performed of all of Puccini operas and is right up there with Bizet’s Carmen and Verdi’s Aida… La Boheme will always be my favorite opera but Tosca is indeed absolutely wonderful. Right from the start of the first act there are glorious melodies that Puccini carries through all three acts [click the speaker icon below to here one], better still, if you don’t own it buy it or, at the very least, buy the highlights of it. You’ll be surprised how much of it you recognize, even if you’re an opera newbie… Many of Puccini’s scenes in Tosca are not sung at all but rather expressed musically -with no vocalization. These melodies are of course familiar as strains of them are from the duets that populate the entire opera.
While the pictures of the stage are not worth it, they save me at least 1,000 words on set design, the shots there are from the final bows by Conductor Martin Otava, Tosca [Jordanka Derilova] and Cavaradossi [Tomas Cerny] Click here to see some pictures of the interior and the set…
What a wonderful part of the trip these operas have been and this really was the best of them all!