Take two of Puccini’s most popular operas – Tosca and La Boheme and reduce them into one hour each, edit music and narrative and you get ‘opera undone’.
This bold take on these two popular operas is truly a challenge that the artistic director Adam Spreadbury-Maher and the music director, David Eaton, took on-board when directing this double bill. This is not a production for opera connoisseurs but a fine performance that is affordable and long enough, 60 minutes each opera, to offer a flavour of the original. It is sung beautifully, in English.
The grandeur of Opera Houses is replaced by the intimacy of the very small, yet cosy ambience of Studio 2 at Trafalgar Studios, which Spreadbury-Maher cleverly used to introduce humour and have his characters interact with the audience.
Puccini’s Tosca, a political thriller, has been transferred from 1880’s Rome to 1940’s New York. That explains the choice of costume but nothing more. The plot centres around three main characters – the diva Floria Tosca, her lover, the artist, Mario Cavaradossi and the corrupt Chief of Police, Baron Scarpia. Scarpia has long lusted after Tosca, and when he suspects Cavaradossi of assisting an escaped political prisoner, seizes the opportunity to kill both. He emotionally torments Tosca into revealing Angelotti’s hiding place and Cavaradossi’s involvement and have her for himself. In this production, there are merely three leading characters and one henchman who does not have a singing part. The characters leap from scene to scene with little time to evolve, leaving those not familiar with the original narrative somewhat baffled. The dynamic force of Scarpia, the villain, lacks the gravitas the role demands.
La Boheme, once again, is a 60 minutes performance, in English, and set in present-day London. This plot has been appropriately adjusted to suit. T-shirts replace heavy coats. No more the candle and the lost key on the floor, nor death from consumption. Marcello the painter, is Marcus, a tattoo artist and Rodolfo, the poet, is Rod, an aspiring writer. They share a flat somewhere in Peckham. Marcus is going to a ‘vegan place’ for dinner and Rod indicates that he’ll join him later. The twist is the arrival of Rod’s Grindr date, Mimi, who is actually Lucas whose Uber got lost, hence arrived late. He is a drug addict, who is keen to maintain his space and freedom within the ambit of gays relationship. The humour in this production is teased out by Marcus’s on-off girlfriend Melissa (Musetta in the original). She pursues a polyamorous relationship. The drama and heart-wrenching moments are in the encounters between Rod and Marcus. This production of La Boheme fared better than Tosca, dramatically. The singing in the two operas, overall, is very competent and promising.
Special mention must be made of the acting and singing of Fiona Finsbury (Tosca), Roger Paterson (Cavaradossi) and for La Boheme’s team, great performance from Honey Rouhani (Melissa), Michael Georgiou (Marcus), Roberto Barbaro (Rodolfo) and Philip Lee (Mimi).
- Based on Puccini’s operas Tosca and La Boheme
- Drected by Adam Spreadbury-Maher,
- Music drector: David Eaton.
- Tosca: Fiona Finsbury (Tosca) Hugo Herman Wilson (Scarpia) Roger Paterson (Cavaradossi) Philip Lee (Spoletta) La bohème Honey Rouhani (Melissa) Michael Georgiou (Marcus) Roberto Barbaro (Rodolfo) Philip Lee (Mimi)
- Trafalgar Studios 2
- Until 7t March 2020