MIDDLEBURY — What makes Puccini’s “Tosca” such a powerhouse is its delicious mix of love and evil, and Opera Company of Middlebury’s production thoroughly enjoyed that disparity. And, in fact, Wednesday’s opening night performance was a vocal and musical powerhouse.
Soprano Suzanne Kantorski, a Rutland native with an international career, delivered the brilliance and beauty of the diva Floria Tosca against the deliciously dark evil of bass Rubin Casas’ Baron Scarpia. And all was to save the life of her lover Mario Cavaradossi in a heroic performance by tenor James Flora.
An excellent Vermont professional orchestra, conducted by Jeffrey Rink, contributed greatly to the Town Hall Theater production, which runs through Sunday. A touring production, accompanied by piano and string quartet, goes to Cambridge, N.Y. (Oct. 17), Stowe (Oct. 19) and Woodstock (Oct. 20). All are fully staged with English supertitles.
“Tosca,” which premiered in 1900, is set in a Rome a hundred years earlier with Napoleon’s invasion imminent. The painter Cavaradossi is harboring the escaped rebel Angelotti, and the chief of police, Baron Scarpia, hopes to bring both of them down through Cavaradossi’s lover, the opera diva Tosca. In fact, Scarpia is most determined and excited to have the beautiful Tosca.
Douglas Anderson, the opera company’s artistic director who stage directed, set the action today, but the difference negligible. This is a timeless story that certainly is repeated to this day.
This was Kantorski’s first performance as the great diva, and it’s a role that suits her well. On Wednesday, she delivered Tosca’s mix of beauty and power irresistibly as no ingénue could. While theatrically she could have been more of a diva, her voice and delivery were brilliant and luscious — and irresistibly dramatic.
Casas used his rich and powerful but pliable bass with unexpected nuance and coloring, and seemed to take great pleasure in portraying the evil Scarpia. Although not as natural, Flora’s brilliant Italianate tenor proved ideal for the earnest Cavaradossi.
Montpelier bass Erik Kroncke was unexpectedly charismatic, both vocally and theatrically, as the first act’s omnipresent Sacristan. Bass-baritone Kian Freitas was effective and appropriately desperate. The supporting cast and chorus were very good. (The tour will employ local choruses.) The 23-piece orchestra proved excellent, and Rink led a naturally dramatic performance.
Theatrically the production was pretty tame — and traditional — for Middlebury. Only some silliness marred the beauty of Tosca’s famous “Vissi d’arte (I Lived for Art)” in the second act. Still, Anderson’s contemporary setting, with Debby Anderson’s evocative costumes and Neil Curtis’ dramatic lighting, underscored the universality of the power of evil and love.
Opera Company of Middlebury’s powerful and beautiful production goes a long way in showing why “Tosca” is one of the most popular operas of all time.