Tosca [Opera North] – Review – Leeds Grand Theatre
By Sandra Callard, January 2023
This lengthy, startling but magnificent production of Puccini’s Tosca is weighty, dramatic opera in excelsis. Headed by soprano Giselle Allen as the lovelorn lead, she sings the mass of the heartbreaking songs with a strength and conviction that has the audience in the palm of her hand. It’s hard to see a movement in the transfixed auditorium.
Her opposite lead, the carefree Cavaradossi, is sung by Ukrainian Mykhailo Malafii with a solid and convincing tenor that is appealingly loveable and yet terribly sad. His voice seems imbued with a foretaste of what is to come – even his happier songs seem somehow careworn with future horrors.
Tosca like this is unrelenting, serious, heartbreaking opera, pitched just about at the pinnacle of what an audience can take of scenes of misery. It is, of course, also full of Pucinni’s wonderful music, which is its endless salvation and its glory. The very fact that the Grand Theatre in Leeds was packed with hundreds of opera lovers who very clearly loved the show, and presented the performers of Tosca with a wild and exceptionally long applause at the end of the lengthy programme, was living proof of this.
I was very much impressed by Robert Hayward who played the devilish Baron Scarpia. He gets it exactly right as he presses Tosca to yield to him. He is tender and threatening by turn, with a wonderful presence as he looks down on every other person he encounters. A truly nasty and brilliant performance, that complements the two superb leads as their heady mix of passion and fun heads towards that final excruciating horror.
The costumes, sets and staging are superb throughout.
“Wonderful and fulfilling”
Tosca is a heavy, dramatic and downbeat opera and is not an easy watch by any means. It contains weighty drama all the way through, with very few moments of ease, but the drama mounts slowly and beautifully as the music and the voices spread their magic throughout the theatre.
This Opera North production is powerful and brilliant and you will feel joy, horror and devotion as it moves immaculately through its phases. If you have never seen Tosca be prepared to feel truly exhausted and emotionally overwhelmed as the talented cast of singers perform – but a wonderful and fulfilling evening is certainly what you will get and enjoy.
‘Tosca’ is at Leeds Grand until 1 April
images: James Glossop