Calixto Bieito has laughed heartily at TOSCA, but refuses to allow the opera to descend into pure entertainment. He now wants to free Puccini’s popular work from operatic clichés.
A new production of TOSCA, live from Oslo, is directed by Catalan director Calixto Bieito. Known for his challenging, sometimes graphic, interpretation of opera and theatre, Bieito’s TOSCA is sure to be a remarkable and moving event.
The first sharp chords of Puccini’s popular opera TOSCA take us into a world of political unrest, torture and merciless power games. Those chords embody the evil of the Chief of Police, Scarpia, who is at the centre of the action - a truly bad character of the operatic world. For him, cruelty goes hand in hand with his erotic appetite – particularly for the singer Floria Tosca. While her lover, the painter Mario Cavaradossi, is tortured, Scarpia explains that the price for Cavaradossi’s release from political imprisonment is Tosca herself. Puccini presents Scarpia’s dark disharmonies in crass contrast to the loving pair’s beautiful arias and duets, such as Cavaradossi’s well-known tower aria ‘E lucevan le stelle’ and Tosca’s ‘Vissi d’arte’.
Bieito’s approach focuses on the intense and intimate chamber play that is spun around these three characters, in addition to the brutal reality that the opera actually depicts.
TOSCA first premiered in Rome in 1900, and is set during Napoleon’s siege of Italy a hundred years earlier. The opera’s themes, however, are timeless. Scarpias can be found everywhere in the form of individuals in positions of power with a seemingly friendly demeanour, but whose friendliness is simply a means of exerting total control.