San Francisco Opera - Puccini - Tosca - New Staging

It was almost exactly 95 years ago when San Francisco Opera staged its first of more than 175 presentations of Puccini’s “Tosca”; on Wednesday evening, the company introduced a welcome new production of the work and impressive soprano Carmen Giannattasio in her SFO and title role debut.

With the exception of the understandably somber and gray, almost Goyaesque Act 3 set that was dominated by a large, distracting statue, the neoclassical staging by director Shawna Lucey and set designer Robert Innes Hopkins was as colorful and lavish as Hopkins’ costume designs, which, along with the sets, were created entirely in SFO shops.

As celebrated singer Floria Tosca, Giannattasio masterfully added one of the exemplary roles of the soprano repertory to her roster of achievements as if it belonged there all along. She boasted a lush timbre, spotless vocal phrasing and dramatic heft, qualities evident from the get-go when she expresses devoted love for painter Mario Cavaradossi in Act 1, and again with melting and poignant beauty in the Act 2 showpiece aria “Vissi d’arte.”

San Francisco Opera may not have anticipated the current climate of high-profile cases of sexual predation against women when casting Giannattasio, but few dramatic sopranos would be better at conveying the character’s necessary combination of vulnerability and resolve. With convincing emotional intensity, her Tosca finally kills her tormentor Baron Scarpia, and then in a pathos-evoking denouement to Act 2, calmly walks away from the scene of the crime.

As Tosca’s lover Mario, tenor Brian Jagde was handsome, both vocally and in appearance, making for an alluring pairing with the entrancing Giannattasio. His sonorous, clear voice filled the house, and his top notes had particularly piercing power, culminating in a touchingly resolute rendition of the exquisite Act 3 “E lucevan le stelle.”

Energetic baritone Scott Hendricks provided rich vocal potency and poured dramatic fuel onto the fire as Scarpia, the feared police chief of Rome and arbiter of Tosca and Mario’s fates. He imbued unbridled virility into the role, a poster boy of the patriarchy who selfishly and cruelly gets his way. When Tosca asks Scarpia in Act 2 what price must be paid to spare Mario, Hendricks’ Scarpia answers with chilling resonance in his powerful “Gia mi dicon venal.”

In his SFO debut, conductor Leo Hussain guided the orchestra with a vigorous though nicely detailed account of the score, while Ian Robertson’s chorus was in fine fettle throughout.

Ms. Carmen Ciannattasio - Floria Tosca

Made possible by the Great Singers Fund by Joan and David Traitel.

Here I am in Lobby just before ordering a glass of Chardonney!

San Francisco Opera and Ballet
Ornate ceiling chandelier!

The huge sets and other needs were done by over 90 stage hands! The cast included over 100 people in costumes and singing as if in a church with all the trappings! The lighting was interesting, if the sun was coming up, the windows lit up and when evening came, the lights lowered and the sky became dark with domes of buildings lurking in the background!

After the first act, the curtain was left open and we were able to see them take down the set for the first act and see them pull then off the stage and pull on the second act's sets. The first act had a room about five stories high! It was so high they had to break the set into two layers. On the left is the cornice of the first room, first being brought down and then being broke into two sections.

The other photo is the replacement set of an office for the police to interagate the possible quilty of harboring political traiters!

The last act, the top of Hadrian's tomb in Rome. Tosca of course, jumped of the top of the tomb after losing the love of her life.
Carmen Giannattasio and Brian Jagde sing the lead roles in San Francisco Opera’s “Tosca,” the popular Puccini work that has appeared in 39 of the company’s 96 seasons.

Created on: 2018.10.07
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Updated on: 2018.10.08