Gulfshore Opera pays special attention to “Tosca” for Mann Hall, Artis—Naples
here are a few tips Gulf Opera has high standards for his next production of “Tosca”:
- It has two directors, one of whom had played the title role herself and the other a man who insists he could direct his Act II “a hundred times and never be bored for a second”.
- The tenor in the role of Mario Cavaradossi, who gets two of the opera’s primo arias, has a rep for the big roles. And he is from Rome, the city where the events of this fictionalized story took place.
- Title star Robyn Marie Lamp was waiting, waiting to play the role, having learned of it for a 2021 debut here which was canceled by the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Two of the opera’s three performances are at symphony halls in southwest Florida – the 1,874-seat Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall in Fort Myers and the 1,477-seat Hayes Hall in Artis—Naples in Napoli.
- And finally, the orchestra behind them in these two cities will be the Naples Philharmonic, in what could be its first performance at Barbara B. Mann.
Otherwise, no pressure here.
If there is pressure, frankly, no one seems to feel it. The conversation is almost giddy because everyone involved loves the story and the music. (For a list of performance dates and locations, see the information box with this story.)
Over 100 things to do:April a busy month for entertainment
Gulfshore ‘Tosca’ has two fans leading
“It’s a fantastic play,” said Kathryn Frady, who came to direct Acts I and III because director James Marvel couldn’t be there when rehearsals were to begin. “Puccini is a genius – all those dramatic moments are there. They’re already in the score for you. There aren’t a lot of repetitions like in a Mozart opera.”
Frady is an avid student of the art form. She co-founded Marble City Opera in Knoxville, Tennessee, where she serves as executive artistic director — and the soprano is a former Floria Tosca herself. The role is one that can take on various shades, Frady said:
“She’s a famous diva. She’s very strong and independent, and can come across as bossy at times. The challenge is really finding a way to get across that Tosca is someone everyone loves in the community.”
“In Act I, it shows the connection and the love that she and Cavarodossi have for each other, finding those moments lighthearted, so when it all happens in Act II, you really understand that it’s a very difficult time for Tosca. But you’re already in love with her as an audience member, so you really care about what happens to her and Mario.”
Frady jokes that she’s the director of Tosca and Marvel is the director of Scarpia. Marvel doesn’t deny it. But he loves the story first.
“Act II of ‘Tosca’ is my favorite act in the whole opera,” he said. “All opera acts combined. Act II to me is just perfection.”
“Part of what it is is the pacing of the act. It’s kind of like any good interrogation – like any good cop show. But it’s done with such psychological verisimilitude and emotional,” he continued. “There are times when Tosca thinks she’s going to be sexually assaulted. Then there are times when she thinks, oh, the bad part is over now and we can have a conversation.
“And then she finds out she’s wrong about it. It comes and goes.”
It’s the constant tension and release that makes it so great, he said.
Marvel wants to infuse this intensity into its productions: “I want an audience to come away from each production with a sense of catharsis or apotheosis, to feel changed by the experience – even if it’s just, ‘I I didn’t know opera could be so powerful and so visceral. That’s always what I’m looking for.”
Lamp found in Puccini a master of silence as well as of orchestration in the construction of drama.
“For the audience and everyone on stage, it’s been a half hour of constant tension in Act II. And suddenly there’s silence in the orchestra,” she said, about of the prelude to his famous supplication to God, “Vissi d’arte”.
Again, in Act III, when she and Mario sing that they will triumph, the orchestra withdraws completely and gives its 16-bar hymn a cappella. “You just don’t see that in operas,” she said.
This hero knows the territory
Alessio Borraggine knows his role on several levels.
“I’m a real Cavaradossi,” joked Borraggine. The man who embodies Tosca’s true love is from the city where the whole story takes place: “I know all the paths (streets), the place where the opera takes place. I know the church, I know the Castel Sant’Angelo. know where (the office of) Scarpia is. Now, in fact, it is the French Embassy – Palazzo Farnese.
Borraggine also knows his Puccini, having sung leading tenors in “Bohemianand “Madama Butterfly” in productions from Florida to Juneau, Alaska.
“Alaska is beautiful for a week. After a week…” he shuddered to express his less charming side.
“It’s a gift from Puccini for tenors,” he said of “Tosca.” Two of Cavaradossi’s tunes are so popular they are often on concert stages and his duet Act I with Tosca is the basis of the stress to come. Borragine feels he fits emotionally into this role because he identifies with Cavaradossi’s quiet revolutionary, willing to die for his freedom.
“The more I work the more I understand it, it’s very natural for me to sing this role,” he said.
Harriet Howard Heithaus covers arts and entertainment for the Naples Daily News/naplesnews.com. Contact her at 239-213-6091.
When and where: 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 26, Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall, 13350 FSW Parkway, Fort Myers; 7 p.m. Friday, April 29, Artis—Naples, Naples, 5833 Pelican Bay Blvd., Naples
Admission: Fort Myers $27 to $77; Naples $59-$99