Seeing Tosca at the Hawth on Tuesday was a first for me. It was not just the first time I have seen Tosca, but the first time I have experienced opera in the flesh.
My exposure to opera has been limited - the Silencio scene in Mullholland Drive, the finale of season three of the West Wing (poor CJ), La Traviata in Pretty Woman and the music round in University Challenge is as knowledgeable as I get. But I am always willing to try new things.
So when I found out The Russian State Opera was presenting two of Puccini’s best loved operas Madama Butterfly and Tosca at The Hawth - I was there.
Madama Butterfly is among the most colourful and exotic of all operas and is one of Giacomo Puccini’s most popular operas was staged on Tuesday. But my wife Amanda and I chose Tosca on the following night.
Originally set in Rome in 1800s, Tosca is a melodrama where love and politics collide, and murder takes place at the highest level.
It tells the story of two idealistic lovers, Tosca and Cavaradossi. Their trust is set to be tested by Scarpia, the ruthless police officer who has no boundaries. Scarpia has sentenced Cavaradossi to death. The officer is prepared to let Cavaradossi go if Tosca is willing to spend the night with Scarpia.
Tosca featured a live orchestra with more than 30 musicians and was sung in Italian with English Surtitles. The surtitles were displayed high up at the top of the stage and at times it meant I missed some of the action on the stage whilst reading them.
But I think I could have managed to follow the story even without the surtitles as the music and singing led us through the drama.
Ruslan Sibatulin was sadistically menacing as the evil Scarpia while Tatiana Golova showed her powerful voice as the eponymous Tosca. And Mikhail Makarov had great chemistry with Golova as Mario Cavaradossi.
This was a great introduction to opera - it had everything I imagined - impeccable vocals, drama, beautiful music and over-acting (in the best possible sense).
The Russian State Ballet and Opera House are back at the Hawth in November when they perform Swan Lake. Click here for more information