'Tosca' driven by vocal, musical excellence

Sunday, February 2, 2003

The 2003 half of the Lied Center's Concert Series kicked off Thursday with The Russian State Opera's performance of "Tosca." More then 1,500 Lawrence theatergoers came out for Puccini's famous three-act tragedy. "Tosca," which has been called the "bread and butter of romantic opera," has it all: love, betrayal, torture, attempted rape, a stabbing, a shooting, a suicide and some of the gushiest romantic sentiments.

The story takes place in 19th-century Rome and revolves around the famous opera singer Tosca, who is in love with a painter, Cavaradossi. Being the vain and jealous diva she is, Tosca is suspicious when Cavaradossi starts acting strangely. She accuses him of having another lover.

Cavaradossi is actually doing something far more dangerous: He's trying to hide an escaped political prisoner. When brutal police chief Scarpia finds out, he selfishly tries to use the situation to maneuver Tosca into his bed and to get the annoyingly arrogant Cavaradossi out of the picture for good. Unfortunately, and not surprisingly, things go terribly wrong for everyone involved.

Visually, the performance provided accurate and ornate insight into 19th-century Rome. Both the set and costume pieces were decorative, not distracting, and a perfect fit for the Lied Center stage. The technical aspects were clean and, aside from the occasionally slow spotlight, flawless. The real treat, however, was Puccini's dramatic score, excellently orchestrated by musical director and conductor Eugeny Brazhnik. The dynamics and volume blended well with the vocals and drove the performance.

The three principal singers were excellent vocally, specifically tenor Tugushvili, as the gallant Cavaradossi. However, the expressively energetic and passionate words (displayed and translated by supertitles on a screen above the stage) seemed slightly underrepresented. Many times, the acting felt more rehearsed than heartfelt.

Overall, though, The Russian State Opera's performance of "Tosca" was enjoyable. Judging by the excited reactions and applause from the audience, it is not often that operas, famous or not, come to Lawrence. These opportunities to see them should not be missed.

-- Kara Warner is a Kansas University student in journalism.