Joni Henson and Luc Robert (photo Emily Cooper)
Tosca the Pantomime
This Accessible Opera is Melodramatic and Simplistic
by Spencer Malthouse
The villain drives Pacific Opera Victoria’s latest production of Tosca. Baron Scarpia (David John Pike) commands the stage, the plot, and the fate of the lovers. As the other actors fall flat, Pike steals the show.
The artist Cavaradossi (Luc Robert) sings well enough about his love for Floria Tosca (Joni Henson) but the two have no chemistry. Henson has a gorgeous voice but her acting is over-the-top and melodramatic. Even if we believe that Tosca inadvertently caused the drama of the play, I’m not sure that the audience should quite so eagerly anticipate her death.
Scarpia dominates the action from his imposing entrance through to his alarum causing death. Twisting his face, thrusting, grimacing, and even pouting he evidently takes a sadistic pleasure in his cruelty. The power of his presence lingers to the finish. In this production, it is not for love of Cavaradossi that Tosca takes her own life, but for vengeance against Scarpia.
Initially, I found the piece aesthetically pleasing. The scaffolding is certainly the nicest scaffolding I’ve ever seen and the portrait in act I is beautiful. Ultimately, however, I found the set simplistic, especially considering that the director’s note is spent describing the scenery.
As a critic, I always have a soft spot for the villains. As such, I recommend this production of Tosca based on the merits of David Pike’s Scarpia. Apart from Pike, the production is flat, melodramatic, and risk-averse. The artistic fall of the scarf at the finale is elegant but frankly I want to see the lady fall.
Tosca runs until April 14
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