THE RICHTER SCALE

TOSCA

By Giacomo Puccini
Presented by San Francisco Opera
At the War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco, CA
Conducted by Donald Runnicles
Directed by Sandra Bernhard

Reviewed by Judy Richter

Giacomo Puccini's Tosca has been one of the most popular operas in the San Francisco Opera's repertoire. It was part of the company's first season in 1923 and was the first production when the War Memorial Opera House opened in 1932. Armando Agnini's design for that production then inspired Thierry Bosquet's set and costume design for the "Tosca" that inaugurated the renovated Opera House in 1997. That design, dramatically lighted by Thomas J. Munn, is seen in the current production, which is the 35th in the company's history.

The current production proves why "Tosca" has remained a standard in the repertoire. Featuring American soprano Carol Vaness as Floria Tosca, Slovakian tenor Miroslav Dvorsky as Mario Cavaradossi and American bass Mark Delavan as Baron Scarpia, it's a gripping drama with soaring music in such scenes as the Te Deum that ends Act 1.

Vaness commands the stage as the tempestuous opera singer and has good chemistry with the handsome Dvorsky as her lover, while Delavan handles the villain's role with authority. Both men sing with +excellent intonation and clarity. Music director Donald Runnicles directs the excellent orchestra, bringing out the leitmotifs that define characters but sometimes allowing it to overpower the singers. Stage direction is by Sandra Bernhard, based on the 1997 production by Lotfi Mansouri, now the company's general director emeritus. The fine chorus is directed by Ian Robertson.


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