Tosca @ Theatre Royal
Sex and death, politics and religion - opera is well suited to the big themes, and Giacomo Puccini was better suited than most to his chosen medium. Tosca remains a paradox among his works though, described at its turn of the century launch as "a shabby little shocker."
Pleasingly, Scottish Opera's bold staging retains some of the grit and pith that earned this insult. To set it in Mussolini's time is no faddish gimmick, as the villainous role of Baron Scarpia (hammed gloriously by Robert Poulton) espouses fascism from his evil asides to his pencil moustache, and the theme of sexual jealousy set against a backdrop of political turmoil is cannily transplanted to the Italy of the 30s. Lavish sets (always to be expected with SO) help maintain the mood. Jose Ferrero fills the theatre with robust charisma and a belting voice as Cavaradossi, and it's a shame Susannah Glanville as his possessive titular lover fails to provide a formidable foil. She cuts an arresting figure on the stage but loses power in the lower registers, only coming into her own with the Vissi d'Arte aria late into Act 2.
As for the music itself, the themes are quite subtle by Italian opera standards, meaning the patrons weren't to be heard whistling their way out of the stalls. Act 3 presents a rousing love motif and some stunning aural depictions of daybreak over Rome, but it's not really an opera of showstoppers. Full marks for staging and deft orchestral manoeuvres then, but an outstanding Tosca hinges on its lead, and that's where this one falls short.