Puccini’s Tosca is the ultimate opera brimming with passion, power, tears and heartbreak. With all the action set over less than 24 hours, it keeps you gripped from the first bar right up to the final note.

Intrigued? Here are our top five reasons why we think Tosca is unmissable.

1. A Tense Thriller

We promise Tosca will have you on the edge of your seat. The drama rapidly takes us from the intimate world of the two lovers – renowned singer Floria Tosca and artist Mario Cavaradossi – via an escaped political prisoner, into the power-hungry milieu of Baron Scarpia and his henchmen. Like all the best thrillers, as the plot twists and turns, we never quite know what’s going to happen next.

In this production, director Edward Dick has placed the action in a space where the historical and contemporary collide, with a timeless love story at its heart.

Robert Hayward as Scarpia with the Company of Tosca © James Glossop

2. The Three Ps

Forget the three Rs. This opera is all about the three Ps: Passion, Politics and Power. Puccini originally set the story at the time of the Napoleonic Wars, but it’s amazing how much it continues to resonate today. In Scarpia’s actions alone, there are echoes of MeToo and fake news – and the cult of the dictator is, of course, very much alive and kicking.

It’s not just about political manoeuvring and power though. Through it all runs the passion between Tosca and Cavaradossi. In fact, one of the key questions Puccini raises is how far would you go to save the one you love?

Mykhailo Malafii as Cavaradossi and Giselle Allen as Tosca © James Glossop

3. A Brilliant Baddie

Baron Scarpia definitely tops the charts when it comes to operatic baddies. His abuse of power, his complete disdain for Tosca’s feelings, his apparent love of torture and his double-dealing strategies are truly mind-blowing. It’s little surprise that the baritone who sings the role tends to be booed at the final curtain!

Rob Hayward, who revisits the part after originally performing it in Opera North’s 2018 production, says: “Scarpia is the archetypal baddie. Having said that, I think it’s important when you’re performing him, to find the good in him and to try and understand why he behaves so badly. Read all about it » 


Robert Hayward as Scarpia and Giselle Allen as Tosca © James Glossop

4. Unforgettable Music

Puccini is a master of the emotional rollercoaster. Just before the first interval, we get the remarkable ‘Te Deum’ (remember the opera scene in 007’s Quantum of Solace?) where Scarpia is joined by the massed voices of the full Chorus of Opera North. Contrast this with the lone voice of Tosca as she laments the change in her fortune with the spellbinding ‘Vissi d’arte’ (‘I lived for art’) in the following act.

If that has you reaching for your tissues, just wait until Act III when it’s the turn of Cavaradossi to sing his heartbreaking farewell to life ‘E lucevan le stelle’ (‘The stars were shining brightly’) as he lies in his prison cell awaiting execution.

5. Stunning Set

The set for this production has been designed by Tom Scutt with lighting by Lee Curran. The first thing you’ll notice is a vast golden dome hanging above the stage on which Cavaradossi is painting a fresco of Mary Magdalene. This dome is used throughout the opera to create different spaces, eventually tipping vertically to become a sky full of stars as we head towards the final tragedy.

The costumes, which have been designed by BAFTA-winning Fotini Dimou, are similarly eye-catching with the suits of the sharp-dressing Scarpia and his henchmen, alongside Tosca’s haute couture outfits, including her glamorous diva dress in Act II.

The Company of Tosca © James Glossop

Tosca opens at Leeds Grand Theatre on Saturday 21 January with an audio described performance on Saturday 28 January. During February and March, it tours to Salford Quays, Nottingham, Newcastle and Hull. Sung in Italian with an English translation displayed on screens either side of the stage, it lasts approximately 2 hours 40 minutes with two intervals.

Want to find out more? Take a look at our handy In a Nutshell guide which has more details on Puccini, Tosca and this particular production.

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