Violence, lust and lies abound in this classic drama.
Violence, lust and lies abound in this classic drama.
Photo courtesy of Houston Grand Opera

Tosca Opens the 2015-16 Season for Houston Grand Opera: Violence, Lies and Death

Everybody dies. No, we're not talking George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones, but a classic predecessor full of just as much intrigue, romance, violence and death, namely Giacomo Puccini's Tosca.

It's set in Rome in 1800, and the city's residents are waiting to see what will happen with Napoleon marching their way and whose political alliances will win out in the end. Houston Grand Opera has brought back the tried and true for its opener for the 2015-16 season at the Wortham Center.

“It's one of the great tragic operas of all time. A combination of a very dramatic story and an absolutely ravishing musical score makes it what can be an unforgettable experience at the opera house,” says director John Caird. Last time he was in Houston, he had “a strange spectral figure” on the set, but this version will be different, he says. “I got slightly bored with that and sacked the shepherd girl. It's always good to do something a bit different.”

Caird praised the lead role singers for this Tosca. Liudmyla Monastyrska sings the title role, while Alexey Dolgov sings Cavaradossi and Andrzej Dobber sings the evil Scarpia role.

“The thing is with these great popular warhorse operas that get done everywhere, there aren't that many singers internationally who can sing these parts at the level required. So they tend to repeat the roles in many, many different performances,” Caird says. The main roles have to be able to work well together, he adds. “They have to fall in love with each other, they have to caress each other, they have to murder each other. So it's quite an intimate relationship these soloists have to have with each other for the piece to work. Not to just be singing out front all the time.”

Floria Tosca is a diva, a singer of great renown who had been raised in a convent. She loves painter Mario Cavaradossi, who tries to help the escaped political prisoner Angelotti get away from his pursuers, which in turn brings Cavaradossi to the attention of Chief of Police Scarpia. Scarpia, who'd like to have Tosca for himself, is able to prey upon her suspicions that Cavaradossi is being untrue to her, and we're off to the races in a long and convoluted plot of lies and misunderstandings that ends in death for the three protagonists.

Tosca performances are scheduled for October 23 through November 14 at 7 p.m. Friday, October 23. 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Friday and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Wortham Center, 501 Texas. Alternate cast on November 14. Sung in Italian with projected English translation. Houston Grand Opera Artistic and Music Director Patrick Summers conducting. For information, call 713-228-6737 or visit houstongrandopera.org. $18-$252.

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