Therefore, we took in the Florentine Opera's new production of "Tosca" on Sunday afternoon the 15th at the Marcus Center in Milwaukee. The performance was in many ways every bit as good, and in some ways better than, the recent Metropolitan Opera simulcast.
The fad this year for "Tosca" seems to be for minimal set productions. We winced when we read in the paper that the Florentine's was a "curiously bare stage" recalling the ugly sets the Met used, but were relieved that this one was not as bad. The major set piece was a huge rear-projection screen that served as Cavaradossi's painting in Act I, a map behind Scarpia's desk in Act II, and a sky view of a statue representing the battlments of Castel San't Angelo in Act III. The Florentine used a raked stage, and had much of the stage actions moving on a diagonal--for example, from up right to down left--which made the staging seem more dynamic than the Met's very rectilinear presentation.
The principal singers, Cynthia Lawrence as Tosca, Renzo Zulian as Cavaradossi, and Todd Thomas as Scarpia were all very fine and satisfying to listen to, and the orchestra, under the direction of Maestro Joseph Rescigno, supported them perfectly.
The nuances of stage direction made this a more classically styled show than the Met's naturalistic effort. There was a lot of melodramatic posing and gesturing, particularly in the second act conflicts between Tosca and Scarpia, but which work well for the piece. Tosca fought back with more spirit, which we approved, and watching Lawrence and Thomas circle, approach, menace, and withdraw, was very good. Thomas' Scarpia was a uniformed, buttoned-up villain of the old school, for whom "cruelty" seems to be the primary motivation rather than lust.
Again, a very enjoyable and gratifying outing. We have noticed that the last couple of seasons the Florentine has done minimal sets for two of the three productions, and then blown out the set budget on the third. We are hoping that that will be this spring's "Rigoletto," but we shal see.