“Shabby little shocker” was the famous put-down by an American critic, a view not shared by the thousands that enjoy Puccini’s Tosca every year, an opera perennially in the top dozen of any house in the world (except Bayreuth), enjoyed for its melodies, its compelling passionate moments and its sumptuous harmonic orchestral passages. Sardou’s story is admittedly over-melodramatic but most audiences are drawn into the predicaments of the actress Tosca and her painter lover Cavarodossi. It was Puccini’s gift in 1900 to the world and a hundred and ten years later – on 27 June – to the Grange Park Opera in Hampshire, the audience applauded vocifierously a fine performance of it.
The production by Lindsay Posner is inventive in some details but it is straightforward and non-conceptual, Peter Mackintosh’s décor likewise. Speaking personally I must have seen the opera at least ninety times but my sob-count was at least four in the first act. Gianluca Marciano abetted and carried out Puccini’s intentions with an augmented English Chamber Orchestra. Only the Te Deum that ends Act One did not have the required weight and sonority.
None of the singers looked Italian but Claire Rutter was a full-voiced and telling Florian Tosca, Peter Auty a strong, satisfying Cavaradossi. Robert Poulton’s Scarpia was a bit less than menacing and his voice lacked the thread of metal required.
With a juicy Three Oranges and a fruity Tosca, Grange Opera is having a good harvest down in the southern shires.