I just saw Tosca last night here in Victoria where I live. I have often spouted to opera newbies why I think Tosca is the perfect first opera, but last night I decided it’s just great no matter how you think about it. Here is my top ten list as to why Tosca is a great opera. (Remember, I’m loving this opera despite the fact there is no mezzo role in it for me! Why did Puccini neglect mezzo’s so?)
TOP TEN REASONS I LOVE TOSCA
10. Not too many characters to keep track of. A few side characters but basically we have a threesome of lovers here. A love triangle is always exciting.
9.. The characters sing in a very normal style of conversation. These tight sentences tell a story like I see on a good HBO drama. No fatty operatic waste. Compelling and gives great pace to the story.
8. Forget the Rosetta Stone program, I feel like I can speak Italian when I watch it, which is very exciting. For example in the conversation between Tosca and Cavaradossi in the first scene with a jealous Tosca complaining about the girl in the painting-they use phrases like gli’occhi-eyes/nero-dark/perdono-forgive/t’amo-I love you. Italian 101.
7. Obvious bad guy. No shades of grey. Just a power hungry guy enjoying the buffet of life. Easy to hate him and root for the lovers.
6. Three words-Henchmen! Henchmen! Henchmen!
5. Death by shooting, stabbing and plunging from a great height. What is this? Tarantino? No, Puccini!
4. Tosca stabs that aggressive man creature ,Scarpia, when he blackmails her into a sexual escapade. This gives every woman in the audience who ever had a pushy overbearing date in her life a vicarious thrill. It was all the talk at the second intermission.
3.Best entrance theme music ever-Scarpia in Act One. Darth Vader should have had this music. Dirty sounding low brass making the whole hall vibrate. It’s the best.
2.Arias you long to take home and sing in the shower. This show gives you practically a Billboard Top Ten hit with –Vissi d’arte from Tosca, E lucevan le stelle and Recondita armonia from Cavaradossi. Fantasy aria moments, I see myself in the tight spotlight, singing my heart out. Love it.
And the number one reason Tosca is a great opera……
1. It’s short! Two and half hours with intermissions (two of them) No longer than many movies these days and with way more action than most-Tosca, even without a mezzo soprano to be found, a great opera.