TOSCA | London, Royal Opera House

Sumptuous in design and endlessly gripping in staging, Jonathan Kent’s landmark 2006 production of Puccini’s glittering, malevolent melodrama is definitive. In its tenth revival, the cast are as good as ever. Vittorio Grigòlo triumphs in just about every scene he is in as the passionate Mario Cavaradossi; Kristine Opolais plays a magnetic and intelligent Tosca; and completing the dynamic trio is Bryan Terfel’s terrific Baron Scarpia. Opera doesn’t get much better than this.

Grigòlo commands the stage with a performative vigor and sings with thrilling openness in the passagio and upper register. Opolais oscillates wonderfully between capricious diva and brave heroine, capturing comedy and gravity in the complex multiplicities of her character. Terfel exudes charisma, from his refulgent entrance, sliding from insidious charm to brutal sadism through deepening paroxysms of villainy.

Paul Brown’s design remains arresting and otherworldly from the opening sequence in the sacristy, to the climax — magnificent and redolent of both period and mood. With the addition of Mark Henderson’s dramatic lighting, we are drawn emphatically into a world of revolution and heresy, devotion and moral decay. The final act’s magical aesthetic brings all the poetry and drama of the piece into sharp relief.

Alexander Joel conducts a lithe and luxurious interpretation of Puccini’s score. The music sounds freshly minted in this all-encompassing, cinematic, and disturbingly alive performance. A “shabby shocker” it may be, but one that travels better into our oversaturated age than almost all of its canonical peers.

Revel in the melodrama of Tosca until 20 June 2019.

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