On Saturday January 27th, 2018 the Metropolitan Opera (The Met) aired their new production of Puccini’s Tosca. The director for this production is Sir David McVicar, with sets and costumes by John Macfarlane, and lighting by David Finn. The conductor was Emmanuel Villaume.
The production is a traditional production of the opera. However, set designer John Macfarlane was interviewed during the second intermission of the broadcast and said he visited Sant’Andrea della Valle (the church for Act 1), the Palazzo Farnese (where Act 2 takes places), and the Castel Sant’Angelo (the location for Act 3.) This way he could, as best as possible, design the sets to match where the action takes place. He also developed costumes that people in 1800 Rome would have worn, as to place the action right where, and when, Puccini wrote the opera. This just helped the performance and allowed the audience to experience the performance as it was meant to be performed.
Sir David McVicar’s direction also helped. We had people visiting the church during the first act, who ended up, like the audience, watching the encounter between Tosca and Scarpia. This, at least in my opinion, helped to bring the audience into the performance.
During Act 2, Scarpia was all over Tosca, literally and figuratively. At one point he grabs Tosca’s arms and forces her to sit down in a chair, and later on grab her by the hair with one arm while holding her with his other hand. With the #Metoo movement, it made the this scene even more gripping. The Scarpia of this production literally commits sexual harassment. This is no denial of that in this production.
In Act 3, when Cavaradossi stands before the firing squad, it appeared to me as if he knew, despite what Tosca had told me, that the bullets were real. There was no denial in my view.
As for the performers, Mr. Lučić was a stand out as Scarpia. His Scarpia was pure evil. And a sexual predator. He used women and then went on to his next “conquest.”
Ms. Yoncheva and Mr. Grigolo are both new to their roles (Tosca and Cavaradossi, respectfully) and while both will certainly develop and mature into their roles, they both gave convincing performances overall. Ms. Yoncheva’s “Vissi d’arte” and Mr. Grigolo’s “E lucevan le stelle” were especially moving. Ms. Yoncheva received a long ovation after her aria, and despite trying to stay ‘in character’, it was obvious that she was deeply moved by the ovation and had to try hard to keep back a smile on her face. My only ‘concern’ with Mr. Grigolo’s performance was that I noticed a few times, especially in the First Act that he seemed to be forcing some of the higher notes, having to step forward on his tiptoes to reach the notes. But more experience in the role may help here.
If you did not see the live broadcast, check your local cinema and attend the encore broadcast, you will not be disappointed. Or better yet, if you are in New York City in late April or May, go to the Met and see the performance live, as the Met will be performing several more performances then.