‘Shabby little shocker?’ Not! Tosca comes to GV | TheUnion.com

‘Shabby little shocker?’ Not! Tosca comes to GV

WHO: The Del Oro Theatre in partnership with Music in the Mountains and InConcert Sierra Presents

WHAT: The Metropolitan Opera, LIVE in HD: Puccini’s TOSCA

WHEN: Saturday, November 9 at 9:55 AM

WHERE: The Del Oro Theatre, 165 Mill Street, Grass Valley

TICKETS: $22 Adults, $20 Seniors, $15 Children 12 and under & students with ID; Available online at http://www.sierratheaters.com or at the Del Oro Box Office

INFO: http://www.sierratheaters.com, 530-477-1100

This Saturday at Grass Valley’s Del Oro Theatre, Sierra Theaters presents Puccini’s “Tosca” as the third offering of the new season of The Met Opera Live in HD.

Full disclosure here and now: I absolutely love this opera. For some, and I count myself among their number, there is opera, and then there is “Tosca,” expressing a near perfect union of music and drama. Sure, the opera has famously had its detractors; critic Joseph Kernan dubbed it that “shabby little shocker,” and George Bernard Shaw — he who only had a taste for the Wagnerian — hated it. But “Tosca” is neither shabby nor little, nor a shocker. Life, death, love, injustice, this is the stuff of opera, and “Tosca” has all that and more. The score expertly matches the subject matter, and the work contains two of the finest arias ever written, “Vissi d’arte” for the soprano voice and “E lucevan le stelle” for the tenor.

Premiering in Rome in 1900, this most Italian of operas, a supreme example of the verismo style, is adapted from a French play by Victorien Sardou. The play in turn is based in part on historical events and personages. Set in 1800 during the Napoleonic wars, the political context pits the forces of republicanism against those of absolute monarchy. The French forces here represent freedom and democracy; of course, this is a few short years before Napoleon crowns himself emperor. The heroine, Floria Tosca, loves the political “radical” Cavaradossi. She is, in turn, pursued by the archetypically villainous spy-master Scarpia. In an absolutely chilling scene, Scarpia, in church, sings of his plans to, well, “possess” her. His aria, “Va Tosca!” (“Go Tosca!”), is sung in counterpoint to a grand religious procession, a te deum. A storm rages, the choir sings, Scarpia reaches a crescendo of lust and shouts “Tosca, you make me forget God.” Stunning.

Tosca is blackmailed, asked to give herself to save her lover. Her lament is a masterpiece: nearly every noted soprano has recorded (and will continue to do so) “Vissi d’arte, vissi d’amore” (“I lived for art, I lived for love”). As well, Cavaradossi’s elegiac confrontation with the dawn of what he believes is his final day, “E lucevan le stelle,” (“And the stars shone”), tests every tenor who attempts it. This terse and theatrically effective melodrama can be richly rewarding. This Saturday’s “Tosca” is performed by Patricia Racette. I’ve seen her twice in the role, and she is not to be missed. Go, Tosca!

John Deaderick is a local theater instructor, director, actor, and the author of “Make Sweet the Minds of Men: Early Opera and Tragic Catharsis,” available at Amazon.com.

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