Music ReviewsMUST SEEOperaREVIEWSTom Williams

Puccini’s Tosca in Concert at Ravinia Festival

Tosca, a concert opera in three acts

tosca in concert at Ravinia Festival

Music by Giacomo Puccini

Libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa &  Luigi Illica

Jame Conlon conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

July 30, 2011 at Ravinia Festival, Highland Park, IL

Fabulous sound of Puccini’s most popular opera works nicely with the terrific vocals by the cast

Chicago opera audiences continue their love affair with Giacomo Puccini’s operas -especially his 1900,  Tosca.  This melodramatic opera is a fine vehicle for top opera singers to exude emotional range as it depicts torture, murder, suicide as well as romantic love, melancholy and hatred.  Tosca contains Puccini’s  best known lyrical arias that were in good hands with the golden,  richly toned vocals from fabulous opera stars such as Patricia Racette as the celebrated singer, Floria Tosca. Salvatore Licitra, as the Tosca lover Mario Cavaradossi made his smooth tenor sour to new heights while the  venomous Bryn Terfel’s baritone deliciously sang his treachery as he yearns for Tosca.

Patricia Racette as Tosca at Ravinia FEstival

Puccini’s innovative score was in marvelous hands with James Conlon and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Tosca is structured as a through-composed work, with arias, recitative, choruses and other elements musically woven into a seamless whole. Puccini used Wagnerian leitmotifs (short musical statements) to identify characters, objects and ideas. Bells, chimes, brass and two choruses including the Chicago  Children’s choir added depth to the piece.  The power of the score together with the emotionally expert turn from the cast made for a most effective and engrossing 2 hour and 40 minutes concert opera. We feel Tosca’s mood swings and her exuberant expectations only to see them thwarted by the devious Scarpia. The dramatic power of the characters continues to fascinate opera patrons. Racette, Terfel and Licitra performed magnificently making the concert sour over a ‘mere’ concert to an imaginative, emotionally driven event. Both the large audience and me enjoyed this moving piece. This was my first concert opera at Ravinia but not my last. Kudos to Ravinia for mounting such a fine piece of performing art.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: July 30, 2011

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