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Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - March 2, 2012

Fiery 'Tosca' opens next week

Livermore Valley Opera presenting Puccini's tale of love and murder

A tale of love, murder, suicide, a rebellion and a fiery diva are in store for audiences when Livermore Valley Opera presents Giacomo Puccini's operatic masterpiece "Tosca," opening March 10 and playing for two weekends at the Bankhead Theater in downtown Livermore.

"Tosca" is the second opera of the company's 20th anniversary season, and is one of the most frequently performed operas throughout the world. It takes place in 1800s Rome when citizens were rebelling against the occupation by royals from Naples and Napoleon was threatening to invade. Its characters are based on real people, and its scenes are reflective of true Roman locales -- matched with the dramatic and powerful arias and music of Puccini.

"There is some truth to the story of Tosca," said Elizabeth Wells, executive director of Livermore Valley Opera. "The opera takes place during a real time in history with many of the sets depicting real locations. These elements of the opera make the story that much more real for the audience."

But it is not only the historical realism of the story that makes this Puccini opera so well-loved, it is Floria Tosca herself, Wells added.

"She's a hot-headed diva consumed with jealousy and pride, whose ill-fated love for Mario Cavaradossi, considered a traitor, she must defend against a corrupt and brutal police chief Scarpia," Wells said. "Scarpia is a hideous monster of a character and Puccini's music portrays him with edgier and darker music than the romantic music usually expected of opera."

Stage Director Olivia Stapp, the opera company's first female director, is a former diva who sang the part of Tosca more than once during her opera career, so she knows full well the power of Puccini's music.

"Tosca is a great musical masterpiece which requires heroic singing from three central characters, but it is also a theatrical masterpiece so carefully constructed that there is not a wasted second," Stapp explained.

"I love the way Puccini writes for Scarpia, the brutal police chief. The text, written by French playwright Victorien Sardou, is brilliant -- creating an evil man cloaked in gentility and nobility, with gestures of an aristocrat but underneath is the foulness of perversity," she continued.

"Puccini renders this duality, and paints this intense psychological contrast with grandiloquent music."

Stapp also knows the demands placed on the singers, and their excitement for performing the arias.

"Puccini understood the almost electric force that a wonderful singer has to communicate and was able to write brilliantly for the human voice," she said.

Soprano and Metropolitan Opera artist Marie Plette is singing the title role of Tosca.

"When I was in college, singing as a mezzo-soprano, I used to sneak away to a room to sing Puccini's soprano arias," Plette recalled. "When I was told I was truly a soprano, I was so excited because it's every soprano's dream to sing the role of Tosca."

The role of Tosca's lover Cavaradossi will be sung by tenor David Gustafson, who appeared in "Die Fledermaus" in 2010. The evil Scarpia will be sung by bass baritone Phillip Skinner, a veteran singer with the San Francisco Opera.

Also joining in this production are members of the Tri-Valley's own award-winning Cantabella Children's Chorus, performing as a chorus of altar boys in Act I.

The production will be sung in Italian with English super-titles. Included in the ticket price are pre-opera talks held one hour prior to curtain.

"This opera has been such a favorite for LVO audiences that we could not wait another season to bring it back so it seemed appropriate for our 20th anniversary season," Executive Director Wells said. "Puccini's masterpiece is steeped in drama and will surely touch the hearts of our audiences."

Fiery tale

Comments

Posted by Mike, a resident of Livermore
on Mar 3, 2012 at 5:01 pm

This looks like a great Tosca! I can't wait!