'The jaws of darkness do devour it up: So quick bright things come to confusion' Act I Scene I, A Midsummer Night's Dream
One man, stocky in frame and resolute in manner is lit by a single spotlight. His name? Scarpia, head of the secret police in 1800 Rome. And yet a man who appears detached from humanity through the cruelty of his actions, bellows the word ‘passion’ with such potency. His voice reaches to the outermost corners of the Tobacco Factory Theatre and hits the audience - sat in-the-round - with full force. ‘Passion’ is at Tosca’s core and Studer demonstrates this by fully displaying the intensity of human emotions in Puccini’s opera.
Whilst originally set at the turn of the nineteenth century in Rome, during a time of political turmoil, Studer has shown that this opera transcends periodisation. Deft staging leads to an exploration of bare humanity. Tosca, performed by Mari Wyn Williams, shifts from jealousy to zealous indignation as she casts her mournful cries despairingly over her dead lover’s body. We listen to Cavaradossi’s passionate dulcet tones describing his love for Tosca, watch as he angrily condemns her betrayal, and look on as they tearfully part. Scarpia’s character transcends time; his manipulation and heartless actions could easily belong to corrupt and cruel individuals of the 21st century. The in-the-round style not only creates an intimate portrayal of human emotions but wonderfully stimulates personal engagement with these emotions, creating a timeless feel.
The music is carefully crafted by Lyness whose dextrous layering of the vocals, along with the chamber ensemble, creates magnificent crescendos and moments of soft poignancy. The attention of the audience is upheld by his careful direction of Puccini’s swift darting score- embodied by the protagonists’ physical movements, and well staged by Studer. At one point, Tosca, in a billowing red dress, convulses in the realisation of the gravity of her actions and this is neatly mirrored in the music’s pulse. And thus, the Opera Project’s Tosca has a wonderful texture.
It is easy to dismiss Opera as a hyperbolic work of theatrical performance. And maybe it is. But through its intensity, we have a medium by which we can view a hotbed of human emotions and connect with them. In the Opera Project’s Tosca, floodlights have been cast on the powerful and destructive emotions of jealousy, love and anger in a wonderfully intense two hour long performance.
Olivia Rutherford, History Student