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DAVID WILKINS listens to the Polish State Opera of Wroclaw


Some friends of mine, years ago now, had a wonderfully friendly, somewhat slobbering, face-licking, 'be-my-chum' (and bugger my or your pedigree!) golden and gorgeous pup that they had named Tosca. Well -- you might wonder whether animals take on the nature of their owners or their names. As memory serves, she certainly had dark eyes (don't all dogs?); she had plenty of fidgety mannerisms, an atavistic capacity for jealousy and could raise a decent (and neighbour-worrying) growl, wail or bark as appropriate when her owner chose to desert her appeals for attention to get on with -- as I guess she saw it -- coddling his cello. But her place in the household was secure. Fortunately, she must always have known that she was the real centre of their love. Otherwise, any attempt to establish her role as 'prima donna dogga' might have resulted in the kind of wasteful distractions that drive the opera for which she was named to its daft but ever-engaging conclusion. Puccini's Tosca is easy enough to love, harder to denigrate and quite impossible to ignore. The metaphor works: 'Good girl, settle down now. No -- now -- there's a good girl!'

The Polish State Opera of Wroclaw's 2000 Production of 'Tosca'

The Polish State Opera of Wroclaw -- as part of the Visiting Opera enterprise -- needs to replenish its treasury vaults as much as venues like Eastbourne need the rare luxury of grand opera. Last year, they brought an innovative production of La Traviata to the Sussex coast. We are, here, but a Palestinian boy's turbo-charged slingshot from Glyndebourne but a peace-process away in terms of affordability and audience profile. This year's visit -- celebrating the 100th anniversary of Tosca's premiere, no less -- was, in some ways, a much lazier affair: relying on the abiding popularity of the work and eschewing any attempt at individual interpretive quirks. Okay -- so we've already had Jonathan Miller's fascist 'take' on the work at the English National Opera and one disparages novelty of production when it's entirely for its own sake (may the gods preserve us from an intergalactic Cavaradossi Skywalker!), but playing it straight does tempt the danger of reducing the work to a somewhat dramatically unengaging sequence of lovely melody and 'greatest-hits' expectations.

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Copyright © 3 December 2000 David Wilkins, Eastbourne, East Sussex, UK





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