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Tosca

Forgive me all, I'm just cutting and pasting my review from the e-mail I just sent ot the gentleman who gave me the tickets. Needless to say I LOVED it, and I covet their lighting designer. Holy crap.

First off, let me tell you how absolutely grateful I am to you and (wife) for giving me the chance to go see these wonderful productions. It always amazes me whenever I walk into the Civic Opera House how beautiful everything is and what a fun time I have. So thank you, thank you, thank you. I ended up bringing (The COG) with me this time, and he really enjoyed himself as well, which is saying something since he was exhausted when he got out of work adn was considering bailing on me last minute. He had no problem staying awake through the production and even discussed it in depth when we got home.

You know me, I can go on for days about the technical aspects of the show. . . but I'll try and do some justice to the performances as well. :-) And what performances they were. Scarpia and Tosca were wonderful singers, and I really enjoyed their performances, but the stand outs for me were the Sacristan and Cavaradossi. The Sacristan was HYSTERICAL. His vocal ability wasn't as pronounced as the others in the cast (not that it was sub-par by any stretch) but his acting was the best by far. He had good comedic timing, good physicality and just a really well developed character for the short time he was on stage. He did this bit with a mop and his bucket where he kept picking up the bucket with the mop handle and "losing" it, which was great. . . and the mop kept falling over until he placed it upright in front of a statue of the Virgin, at which point it stood straight up. Very, very well played. Cavaradossi wasn't quite as polished with his acting performance (his death was a bit TOO dramatically staged), but holy cow could that boy SING. I was absolutely blown away by his vocal performance and couldn't find a flaw in anything. . . and it was like he was singing into a megaphone. The other actors you would lose phrases on occasion, but he was clear as a bell, no matter what. The ensemble as a whole was very, very well done. The choreography was natural and fluid, the vocalizations were wonderful and the dynamics were very well done.

One thing that did bug me. . . after the second act, when Tosca has killed Scarpia, the three leads came out in front of the curtain and took bows. Now, I agree, the perfomances were wonderful and dramatic and gorgeous. . . but what the heck? It COMPLETELY took me out of the moment and thrust home the fact that these are actors, not real people. . . which I know in the back of my mind, but I love getting lost in the story, and this just killed it for me. I couldn't get as involved in the crucial third act as I would have been had they not broken the fourth wall so completely. Eh. Is this something that happens often in opera? Ah well, that was really my biggest problem, and that's not much to complain about.

Anyway, the tech is what really boggles my mind, and this show didn't disappoint at all.

The sets were astounding. Simply amazing. Whoever designs these things has a wonderful grasp of perspective, as the stage looks absolutely massive up there, even when it's covered in flats. The opening scene in the church was just gorgeous, and very cleverly done with the different family chapels lining the area, the large painting on the back wall, the slightly dessicating walls and tarps protecting different areas. . .you really felt as though you were looking on a renaissance church being worked on. The way they staged everything was well thought out too, though at one point I did notice a lot of the 'extras' standing off to the side in what I thought were the wings, but even the wings were made to look like part of the set, so I'm really not sure if that was purposeful or not. There were so many fun and interesting places to make entrances and exits, I wasn't sure where to look next, which was a neat way to do it.

The second scene, Scarpia's villa, wasn't as elaborate as the churh was, but it was. . . rustically elegant for lack of a better term. Again, the perspective was great and I admire their painters amazingly because it was difficult to tell where the real wall decorations ended and the painted ones began. It was simple, but the effect was really, really neat. Also, there were "hidden" doors to the torture chamber, both in the wall and a trap door in the floor, which was really great. Again, it was the little touches. The candelabras (which I'll elaborate on in lighting), the food on the plate for his dinner, the hangings on the wall, everything really helped to bring the room to life.

The final set was my least favorite. It was the stone fort, and while it was interesting enough, it didn't seem to have the character or touches of the first two. . . which come to think of it, might have been one of the points. It was well done and did look like a fort, but at the end when Tosca threw herself over the ballustrade, she must have caught one of the corners because the stone "wall" quivered like jello. Nothing major, but SUCH an easy fix with a couple of two-by-fours and some screws to stabilize it a bit more.

Tosca's death also bothered me a bit just for the sheer anti-climax of it. She climbed the stairs painfully slowly (despite the flurry of dramatic music) and then essentially walked off the wall. I just didn't believe her despair/anger/fury at all at that pivotol moment, and I couldn't for the life of me believe that she would jump (or walk even) off a wall. It was more like she was going for groceries and missed the curb than anything.

The costuming for this one was very fun. It was simple, but I think the costumes were MUCH more flattering for the women than the one's I saw at Tristan and Isolde. Tosca is supposed to be this gorgeous diva, and I think the costumes actually helped a bit this time. The red dress she wore was very nice on her and still kept up with the period of the show. Scarpia's uniform was nicely ambiguously militaristic and Cavaradossi had the simple artist garb down, but it was cut in a way that de-emphasized his gut, which was a plus . . . it was rather large. The colors for the first two acts were rich and full, lots of reds and blacks with a smattering of browns here and there which helped set the tone of the show. The third act was much starker, with grays and blues, the only actual color on the set being Tosca's red dress, which was a great statement in itself. Very, very nicely done.

The lighting. Oh, the lighting. I could go on for days about it, and as the show went on, it just kept getting more and more intricate and beautiful.

In the first act it was mostly a wash across the stage, but it was nicely done with "sunlight" pouring in through the doors and windows of the church, as well as with some specials from the candels and such. It was very natural adn very, very well done.

Second act, in Scarpia's study, was just astounding. It was mostly lit by "candlelight" and by a fireplace on the stage right wall, and the effect was AMAZING. There was what I think was meant to be a window light (it was bright, like sunlight, streaming in SR) but it seemed so incongruous with the rest of the lighting in the room it seemed almost like a mistake, especially when it disappeared in the middle of the scene. Not quite sure what that was meant to be, but the rest was great. The lights from the torture chamber were appropriately hell-ish, especially the one coming from the trap door int he floor. The "candles" flickered, of course, and whenever they were extinguished the lights on stage would diminish accordingly. When Tosca moved across the stage holding the candelabra, the "candle" light would move with her so seamlessly you could easily believe it was truly from the candles and not the instruments. The most amazing bit of lighting, though, was the fireplace SR. While the audience woudln't be able to see the flames inside the box, they illuminated the room VERY realistically with a dancing orange glow. . . and on the back wall, you could see a shadow of the smoke that was trailing up the chimney. I mean, that's attention to detail and realism. I'm probably one of ten people in the audience who conciously noticed it, but every person in that room catalogued it as it brought them deeper into the play. Just wonderfully, wonderfully done.

The third act's lights were very reminiscent of Act two of Tristan and Isolde, with the stars and night sky fading into the sunrise as the act progressed. I think they must have heard me talking about the visible wires in the stars last time, because this time I couldn't see the wires at all and I was looking for them. Again, it was a beautiful effect, slowly fading from a night sky as the whispy clouds chased each other behind the buildings (BEHIND, mind you, not over, which I think means they had to put extra lights on the set to do this effect) as the dawn broke just as Tosca walked off the side of the building. Just the TIMING on there was exquisite and the color choices for the dawn were simply spot on.

I should probably wrap this up for now. Again, thank you so very, very much for letting me see it. It's just such a pleasure for me to get to see them, and I can't even begin to thank you enough for giving me the opportunity. :-)

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