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Review – Opera Queensland’s Tosca: a sublime night at the opera

Right: Rachelle Durkin as Tosca and Angus Wood as Cavaradossi. Below right: Jose Carbo as Scarpio.

Photos by Stephanie Do Rozario.


By Giacomo Puccini

Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa

Directed by Patrick Nolan

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Conductor: Oliver von Dohnányi

Opera Queensland

Lyric Theatre

Queensland Performing Arts Centre

South Bank


Season: June 13-22. Duration: two hours 30 minutes including interval. Bookings: or phone 136 246. Sung in Italian with English surtitles.

What a story! What power! What magnificent singing and acting and one of the most dramatic scores in opera. Then we had murder, torture, rape and suicide for

good measure. There’s no doubt Opera

Queensland’s Tosca had everything and it was

brilliantly revealed on opening night. What has

been described as the greatest opera of them all or equally, a simple melodrama, was turned into a gripping power-play between good and evil and a well-matched trio of ill-fated rivals. It was a sublime night at the opera.

The characterisations were well defined and the stage chemistry magical.

The opera was originally set in Rome in 1800, a time of upheaval and Napoleonic conquest. Patrick Nolan updated it to the 70s, which was also a time or unrest in Italy. It was staged on Dale Ferguson’s double decker minimalist, modular set that converted sweetly from church to opulent apartment and flouro lit jail cell, and his costuming was character based in 70s style. I loved the dark leather gloves and black skivvy that personified the coldness and evil of Jose Carbo’s Scarpio, the Chief of Police.

His was a terrifying portrayal of a man without soul or conscience. He just radiated evil and his duets with the diva Tosca, who looked very trendy in red, high-waisted flares and fur coat, sung by the amazing Rachelle Durkin were electrifying and terrifying at the same time.

But the duets with Durkin and her lover, the painter Cavaradossi, were moments of pure joy and passion. Angus Wood sang Cavaradossi with such clarity and power his voice soared over the audience.

But all this would mean nothing without the music, which is one of Puccini’s most dramatic and descriptive scores. The Queensland Symphony Orchestra again showed its depth of talent with a brilliant interpretation under the baton of Oliver von Dohnányi and of course we heard the sounds of the wonderful Opera Queensland Chorus and the extra voices of the Opera Queensland Children’s Chorus.

There was a sweet opening to Act Three with Jessica Low as an office cleaner singing the Shepherd’s Song

The three-acter had a break after the first act of 45 minutes and the second two went through uninterrupted and at such a cracking pace of intensity that the time just flew by.

The action opened with Cesare Angelotti, sung by Sam Hartley, an escaped political prisoner, neatly dressed in an orange, prison issue jump suit, running into the church and hiding in the Attavanti private chapel.

Cavaradossi arrived to continue work on his picture of Mary Magdalene. Angelotti emerged and told Cavaradossi, an old friend, that he is being pursued by Scarpia. Cavaradossi promises to help him. And so the descent into intrigue, deception and pursuit begins.

It is fascinating well produced journey into the dark world of repressive administrations that leaves an uneasy feeling even today.

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