Tosca by Arizona Opera

Since they are sung, a mere one-third of the
words found in the play have to tell the opera’s story. Thus, the opera
needs to have fewer characters than the play and only the most important scenes
can be shown. For example in the opera, the escaped prisoner, Angelotti, and
the painter, Cavaradossi, already know each other. In the play, they meet for
the first time onstage, so they spend time on stage explaining their histories
and backgrounds to each other. The opera eliminates the roles of Tosca’s
maid and Cavaradossi’s two servants.

0228IMG_2914.gifJill Gardner as Tosca and Gordon Hawkins as Scarpia

In the opera, both Cavaradossi’s torture and Scarpia’s murder
take place at the Farnese Palace. In the play, Cavaradossi is interrogated and
tortured at his country house, where he was captured, and Tosca stabs Scarpia
at his apartment in the Castel Sant’Angelo. Only in the opera does
Cavaradossi have a final soliloquy: ‘E lucevan le stelle’ (The
Stars Were Shining Brightly). In the play, Cavaradossi is killed off stage, not
in front of the audience as he is in the opera. At the very end of the play,
Spoletta tells Tosca that he and his men will send her to join her lover. She
cries “J’y vais, canailles!” (“I am going there, swine!”). In the opera,
her final words are more dignified: “O Scarpia, avanti a Dio!” (“O Scarpia,
before God!”).

On the evening of January 26, 2013, Arizona Opera presented an interesting
traditional production of Tosca with an excellent cast. The set by
Donald Oenslager was constructed in the 1950s for the New York City Opera. In
the first scene, in the Church of Sant’Andrea della Valle, the painted
set looks as if the nave is miles deep. That painted set will be archived after
these performances and it certainly deserves to be kept as an example of stage
perspective, now a rarely seen art. The costumes by A.T. Jones and Sons set the
era perfectly. Director Bernard Uzan told the story in energetic
verismo style. This was opera as contact sport and it was wonderful to

Jill Gardner’s Tosca was a thinking diva who used her feminine wiles
to get her way. She sang with dramatic tones that belied her slim stature. Adam
Diegel was an intense Cavaradossi who started off slowly but sang his Vittoria
with exciting sounds. His final ‘E lucevan le stelle’ was an
unwavering expanse of lyrical sound. Gordon Hawkins was a rather thuggish
Scarpia who bullied not only his victims but also his underlings. His sole
moment of real dignity was the ‘Te Deum.’

0516IMG_3340.gifExecution of Cavaradossi (Adam Diegel)

Peter Strummer was a most amusing Sacristan who thoroughly enjoyed
irritating Cavaradossi whom he thought a non-believer. There was a good bit of
horseplay in the middle of Act I, but musically, no one missed a beat. In two
of the smaller parts, Craig Colclough declaimed Angelotti’s lines with
vigor and great dignity in Act I and showed his comic side as the lazy Jailer
in the last act. Members of AZ Opera’s young artist program showed their
promising abilities. David Margulis was a sadistic Spoletta and Thomas Cannon a
strong and striking Sciarrone.

Chorus Master Henri Venanzi has made the Arizona Opera Chorus into a first
rate ensemble and they sang their scenes with great gusto. Principal Conductor
Joel Revzen gave a powerful rendition of the verismo score that added
greatly to the dramatic situations seen on stage. As always, he was most
considerate of his singers and at the same his rendition had well thought out
tempi and a great deal of translucence. It was a dark, rainy day outside but in
Phoenix Symphony Hall there was the sunshine of Roman drama.

Maria Nockin

Cast and Production

Tosca: Jill Gardner; Cavaradossi: Adam Diegel; Scarpia: Gordon
Hawkins; Sacristan: Peter Strummer; Angelotti/Jailer: Craig Colclough;
Spoletta: David Margulis; Sciarrone: Thomas Cannon; Shepherd Boy: Bevin Hill.
Arizona Opera Chorus and Phoenix Boys Choir, Chorus Master: Henri Venanzi;
Arizona Opera Orchestra, Conductor: Joel Revzen; Director: Bernard Uzan; Sets:
Donald Oenslager; Costumes: AT Jones and Sons; Lighting Design: Michael
Baumgarten. Arizona Opera January 26, 2013.

image_description=Jill Gardner as Tosca and Adam Diegel as Cavaradossi
product_title=Tosca by Arizona Opera
product_by=A review by Maria Nockin
product_id=Above: Jill Gardner as Tosca and Adam Diegel as Cavaradossi

Photos courtesy of Arizona Opera