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Charles Johnson proved a fine, musical Scarpia and his rendition of the closing pages of Act 1 was quite thrilling; here he was well matched by Michael Vale's staging. I particularly liked Scarpia's double take as he suddenly realises he is not alone but that the chorus and priest have appeared on the upper level. Smith's visual persona as Scarpia was very urbane and quite laid back; I would like to have heard how he developed this vocally, but that will have to wait for another time.

Ronald Samm was suitably threatening as Spoletta; he has an impressive stage persona and is physically dominating, so he wisely understood that less is more. Samm has already covered Otello at Glyndebourne and is probably a singer to watch out for. The other roles were strongly cast from chorus members; Peter Grant made a fine, anxious Angelotti, Jane Harrington a mellifluous shepherd (correctly invisible) and Laurence Cole a sympathetic jailer.

The opera was sung in Edmund Tracey's English translation. Our party was divided as to the effectiveness of the singers' diction, but I felt that they were admirably comprehensible. It was good to hear that audience reacting to the singers' words, especially in the interplay of Tosca and Cavaradossi's relationship in Act 1.

The opera was given in Tony Burke's reduced orchestration. The orchestra numbered some 29 people and they responded well to Robin Newton's direction, producing some lovely playing. Only at the major climaxes did you miss a feeling of amplitude that a fuller orchestra could have given.

Doing Tosca on a small scale is a tricky proposition, getting the feel of the acting style right is very important. By and large Tim Carroll and his cast avoided ham and if they did not manage to elicit gasps of horror from the audience during Act 2, they did convey the musical drama of the piece in an admirably convincing manner.

Copyright © 28 March 2006 Robert Hugill, London UK



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