A new version of Puccini’s masterpiece “Tosca” was staged at the Perm Opera House

A new version of Puccini’s masterpiece “Tosca” was staged at the Perm Opera House


Implicit references to Rene Magritte and Cloud Atlas, time flowing backwards, visual polyphony of stage and screen, augmented reality glasses and a videographer with a camera broadcasting what is happening live: in the new production of Tosca at the Perm Opera House, everything betrays its commitment creators to advanced technologies. I watched with curiosity the search for new angles in Puccini’s operatic masterpiece Gulara Sadikh-zade.

Year 2046 - year 1937 - year 1800; three acts - three times - three views of Tosca, the most “operatic opera” of the last century. The combination of times in the play, invented by stage director Fyodor Fedotov (last season he made his debut at the Perm Opera House, staging Britten’s one-act parable “Curlew River”), places the characters in three different historical contexts and, accordingly, in three different subject environments. In the futuristic minimalist design of the future museum of modern art - with glowing neon compositions, an invasion of Chinese tourists and an unexpectedly unfolding ballet show; in the classic interior of the office of a high-ranking official, with wooden panels on the walls, a typewriter and a desk lamp on a separate table; finally to the massive stone-walled prison cell in Castel Sant'Angelo, where Mario Cavaradossi languishes awaiting execution.

Time in the play moves from the future to the past in large time leaps. But there is an important detail: all three time periods, taken from different centuries, are strictly tied to June 17–18. It was on this day, according to the play of the same name by Victorien Sardou (1887), on the basis of which Luigi Illiki and Giuseppe Giacoso wrote the libretto of the opera, that the significant Battle of Marengo took place, the result of which was the victory of Napoleon’s French army over the Austrians.

The vicissitudes of the battle are only briefly mentioned in the opera. However, in this way the very unity of time, place and action is achieved, which ensures the swiftness and integrity of the events unfolding in the opera: from the cloudless existence of two free, creative, confident people and their calling, the artist Mario Cavaradossi and the victorious opera diva Floria Tosca, to their tragic death in the finale.

Everything that happens in Fedotov’s performance fits into a single day: from four in the morning on June 17, when an exhausted fugitive, the former consul of the Roman Republic Angelotti, appears in the church of Sant’Andrea della Valle (turned into a museum of modern art) and hides in the chapel of the Attavanti family - and until four in the morning on June 18, when her lover, Mario Cavaradossi, is executed on the upper platform of Castel Sant'Angelo in front of Floria Tosca's eyes. Thus, three different historical times find themselves “stitched” or “attached” to each other on one summer day, as if hinting at some “wormholes” in the time flow.

If we add to this inverted and layered temporality the memory that the premiere of Tosca was first presented in Rome in 1900 at the Teatro Constanzi, and the events described by Sardou took place exactly a hundred years before the premiere, in June 1800, then The games with time that the director started become especially significant.

At the same time, the fundamental and meaningful unity of the three acts is ensured by a single stage design. Set designer Larisa Lomakina masterfully plays with volumes and colors, having invented a niche-window in a monolithic wall converging at an angle: delicate shades of color change in the window in the first act, the figures of the heroes look convex and relief against the background of the window; in the third act, a majestic night panorama of the Eternal City opens from it.

The laconic lines of the scenography compete with the excessive, sometimes irritating luxury of Floria Tosca's costumes. Bright red and wine tones, lush ruffles, frills and jabots, and in the second act - a flirty cap, pushed over the ear, and an elegant reticule handbag, in the fashion of the 30s of the twentieth century. Tosca's attribute is the poppy flower, a symbol of passion, which Scarpia gives her in the first act; she will return the gift in the second, stabbing the villain and placing the ill-fated flower on his chest.

Allusions to Carmen cannot be avoided here; red is the color of passion, blood, the color of Carmencita. Moreover, Scarpia, turning to Tosca, burning with lust, mixed with the desire to suppress, humiliate and trample the dignity of a proud woman, holds a flower in his hand, almost like Jose in the famous “aria with a flower.” However, Scarpia - the analogue of Verdi's Iago in Puccini's gallery of operatic heroes - embodies the darkest sides of human nature; he is a brutal killer, sadist and rapist who takes pleasure in the suffering and pain of others. It is the image of Scarpia that makes the opera itself especially attractive to the public: sex, passion and violence - at all times a heady cocktail.

The stage action runs in parallel with the video on the big screen (video artists are Valery Ershov, Mikhail Myasnikov and Alan Mandelstam). A red-hot iron pressed against Cavaradossi's back during torture is shown large-scale, in full screen, as is his face, distorted in pain, while on stage his beloved Tosca screams and rushes about. A frequent technique in the play is a storyboard, the simultaneous development of three frames: we see the faces of the three characters, their sharp reactions to what is happening.

The singers demonstrated not only excellent vocals, but also commendable acting skills: they seriously, truly lived and sang the roles and parts, appropriating the experiences of the opera characters. The first cast included Zarina Abaeva (Floria Tosca), the owner of a beautiful, voluminous, free-flowing dramatic soprano, and Dmitry Shabetya from Minsk (Cavaradossi), whose tenor did not always cope with the vocal difficulties of the part, but Cavaradossi’s signature aria “E lucevan le stelle” “ (“The stars were burning in the sky”) he sang wonderfully. Enkhbat Tuvshinjargal, soloist of the Perm Opera House, actually became the main character of the first evening. He perfectly succeeded in portraying the soulless, sinister, dehumanized tyrant, chief of the secret police Scarpia: the cold, serpentine gleam of his eyes, meager, precise movements and deliberately muted timbre colors of the baritone.

In the second cast, the favorite of the Perm public, Boris Rudak (Cavaradossi), as always, impressed with the naturalness and sincerity of his existence on stage; his voice sounded plastic, flexible and lively, although not always smooth in the sense of sound engineering. Anzhelika Minasova (Tosca) conducted the part with dignity, correctness and skill, highlighting the winning properties of her voice. Alexander Krasnov sang the part of Scarpia very evenly and efficiently, but one thing got in the way: he absolutely did not succeed in portraying the villain, his face was too kind.

Timur Zangiev, a guest conductor from the Stanislavsky Music Theater, was at the helm, and the orchestra sounded simply wonderful under his hands: temperamental, bright and very meaningful. There were practically no overlaps, rough edges, or discrepancies with the soloists - it seemed that the orchestra musicians were on the same wavelength with the singers. All the leitmotifs, all the important themes that Puccini articulates precisely in the orchestral sound, in numerous solos, were presented by the conductor in relief, with meaning; the score - it was felt - was carefully listened to, structured and rehearsed. And it is precisely in the musical sense that the new Perm “Tosca” is a more absolute success than the work of the directors, in which, for all its dazzling effectiveness, there is not so much originality, but there is an abundance of excessive straightforwardness.



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