Tag Archives: Tosca
When someone says that opera is their life, you naturally think – singer? composer? conductor?
Not in this case.
For Shawnet Sweets, her opera life is as a fan and as the Second Assistant Treasurer in LA Opera’s box office. But, when she’s not selling tickets, Shawnet travels the world to see opera and she finds other ways to make opera part of her life.
You see, Shawnet is also a philanthropist. She decided she’d ride in the AIDS Lifecycle: The Ride to End Aids. This is an annual seven-day bike ride to raise money and awareness in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Participants raise money and then ride on average 80 miles a day, for seven days, from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
How does opera fit into this story?
Shawnet’s favorite operas give her strength to complete the 560-mile ride.
Soprano Melody Moore believes in female empowerment — perhaps that’s why she’s so drawn to the Lady Macbeths and Floria Toscas of the operatic stage. Luckily, these are the types of roles she’s been polishing since her earliest days as a budding singer, meticulously analyzing each and every leading lady throughout her development. But Moore is all grown up now, and on May 13 she once again steps into the title role of Puccini’s Tosca at LA Opera, under the baton of Maestro Grant Gershon.
With her fifth production of Puccini’s masterpiece underway, Moore doesn’t let repetition affect her artistic integrity. In her own words, it’s a role that changes as she matures, and her understanding of the character has zig-zagged across the mood board.
Baritone Ambrogio Maestri may be a sinister villain on stage as Scarpia in Tosca, but he’s quite the opposite off stage.
A large, booming man, Maestri who comes in at 6 foot, 5 inches tall, he towers over the parishioners, his victims, and the doomed lovers, Cavaradossi and Tosca. Maestri, who plays Scarpia through the end of the month, has sung the role many times and developed the role over the years. In Maestri’s interpretation, Scarpia is stoic and still, believing that such a powerful man would command the room and force others to move about him, responding to his orders and will. The effect is a Scarpia that is completely in control and with an evil essence that makes Rome quake.
But, the evil Scarpia couldn’t be further from who Maestri really is.
This week we open the final main stage production of LA Opera’s 2016/17 season – Tosca. If you’ve been following along on social media, you’ve seen a host of rehearsals in progress. As the elements come together this week, we thought we’d break it down and show you how an opera comes to life.
GETTING TO KNOW TOSCA
Several weeks ago, we started with studio rehearsals. These are musical and staging rehearsals where the principal cast and the chorus go through the music, sometimes individually, sometimes together, to get a sense of the show’s flow, the acting involved and how the director expects it to all look. These rehearsals are conducted in rehearsal halls with a piano, not on the stage and without many of the main elements of the opera (the orchestra, the lighting, the costumes etc). Each scene is mapped out on the floors with tape so that the cast can rehearse their roles in their proper positions, relevant to each other and the chorus, as well as to the sets and props on stage.
Opera has some of the gutsiest heroines that you don’t want to mess with who have killer arias –anthems as empowering awe-inspiring as your favorite Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, and Katy Perry songs.
Before seeing our upcoming production of Tosca –whose title character is one gutsy heroine – check out our list of music that gets you in that girl power spirit.
Tosca’s Act III aria (“Il tuo sangue o il mio amore”) – Tosca by Giacomo Puccini (opens at LA Opera on April 22)
Tosca will do anything for Cavaradossi, the man she loves – even resort to murder. In Act III, Tosca tells Cavaradossi exactly what she had to do to save his life. It’s one of the most climactic moments in the opera and showcases just how gutsy Tosca can be.
For the past few weeks, our props, costumes, and wig/makeup teams – the same people who created a scarily realistic head of the John the Baptist for Salome – have been working on their latest bit of opera magic. They’re not just creating a head, but an entire body to look like one of the characters in Tosca.
That character? Cesare Angelotti.
Angelotti (played in our production by Nicholas Brownlee) is an escaped political prisoner given sanctuary by the opera’s hero, Mario Cavaradossi (Russell Thomas). While Angelotti evades capture for most the opera, he’s ultimately cornered by Scarpia’s thugs. In our production, Angelotti’s corpse is hung by the neck. When this happens, the singer is replaced by a “stunt double,” or in other words, a mannequin that’s dressed and styled to resemble the singer.
Making the body double is a multi-tiered process that starts with sourcing the dummy.
Properties Coordinator Lisa Coto sources the dummy. We started with an articulated dummy used for search and rescue and CPR training. Coto chose this dummy, because it’s well-made. It’s a heavy dummy (60lbs) and the limbs dangle like a real person; in other words, it’s very lifelike.
After Coto sources the dummy, she delivers it to Costume Design Manager Jeannique Prospere. Prospere and her team make sure that the dummy’s costumes match Angelotti’s costume – an off-white, striped prison uniform, with blue/grey pants and jacket. Since Angelotti has been in prison, it’s not enough for the team to replicate the costumes. They also must distress, age, and dye the costume to make it look like the dummy has suffered the same trauma as the live character of Angelotti.
Women Rock – on television, in film and in opera – Tosca Rocks!
Girl Power has been around a long time – and it’s at the center of many conversations today. The more we’ve gotten to know the title character of Tosca – in anticipation of its opening on April 22nd – it’s clear that she is the epitome of Girl Power. She’s certainly not a wallflower – she’s courageous, she’s loyal and she’s fierce. In the spirit of Tosca, we’ve rounded up some powerful women and their stories to get us inspired and in the mood.
Daenerys – Game of Thrones
Daenerys rose from being sold by her brother in exchange for an army to becoming one of the most powerful forces in the Seven Kingdoms. Whether she’s freeing the slaves in Meereen or blowing up enemy ships via her dragons, she’s a total fighter. Judging from the latest promo, Daenerys will continue fighting for what she wants – the Iron Throne. Like Tosca, she controls her destiny. … Continue reading
Everyone has their limits – Tosca’s plight reflects today’s world more than Puccini could have imagined.
Tosca is one of the greatest works of music theatre ever written and its importance is undiminished more than a century after Puccini wrote it. Its narrative is deceptively simple. It involves the lives of three principal characters. Mario Cavaradossi is a talented young painter, earning his living by creating ecclesiastical art in Roman churches. Floria Tosca, his lover, is a well-known opera singer, adored by her public. Baron Scarpia is the chief of police in a military state that is cracking down on all opposition, including artists and the support they draw.
Thousands of people just like you come to LA Opera each year to experience the magnificence that can only be found in opera. Through world-class staging and bold experimentation, opera has something for everyone, regardless of age, musical preferences or means. Here are some of the opera experiences you can give as gifts to your friends and family this holiday season.
Hop on Mozart’s Orient Express with The Abduction from the Seraglio
If you’re a fan of screwball comedies, this is the opera for you. Updated to the Roaring Twenties, this riotous staging marries the brilliance of Mozart’s comic gem with the flair of a classic Hollywood comedy. En route from Istanbul to Paris, two beautiful damsels in distress are held captive aboard the luxurious Orient Express by a notorious Ottoman royal. It’s up to their faithful lovers to rescue them before it’s too late!
PARLANDO (11 Scrabble points) – Italian – Parlando literally means “in speaking style” and refers to the moment when singers used technique to bring singing close to speaking. In other words, singers will sound like they are speaking, but using the rhythm and/or inflections used for singing. A famous example of this is mid-way through the famous aria, “Vissi d’arte” from Puccini’s Tosca (which returns next season starring Sondra Radvanovsky). See a video of Radvanovsky performing the aria below. At first, she sings along with the melody, but soon diverts (around the 1:15 minute mark) from the melody into a section where she’s singing in the style of speech (as if she converses with herself).
Looking forward to our upcoming 16/17 season’s revival of Tosca starring Sondra Radvanovsky? We’ve collected a couple articles for you to read before seeing the show next year.
Opera is all about love. Passionate Love. Unrequited Love. Betrayed Love. Desperate Love. You-name-it love. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to find out what kind of opera valentine you are.
The Storybook Romantic
You’re the kind of person, who appreciates storybook romance, even if it ends in tragedy. For you, it’s all Puccini, Verdi, and Mozart all the time. You can get down with the unrequited romance just as much as you can love the fantastical loves that conquer all.
Best Opera Next Up at LAO: Madame Butterfly
The Cinema Siren
You live and breathe film and love it when opera productions are inspired by your favorite movies or film eras (or when films use or are inspired by opera). Operatic love is like a good Classic Hollywood film; whether it ends happily or tragically, the love is always spectacular.
Best Opera Next Up at LAO: The Magic Flute
We’ve finally announced the 2016/2017 season and it’s going to be a big one. There are six mainstage operas, a semi-staged concert, and stellar off-grand productions to enjoy starting September 17.
Can’t wait for the excitement to begin? Take a look below and get to know all the 16/17 season has in store for Los Angeles.
Plácido Domingo and James Conlon unite to open season with Verdi’s Macbeth
The season opens with a new production of Verdi’s Macbeth (September 17 through October 16, 2016), starring Plácido Domingo in the title role and conducted by James Conlon. Ekaterina Semenchuk will perform the role of the treacherous Lady Macbeth. LA Opera’s first production of Macbeth since 1987 will be staged by Darko Tresnjak, director of the 2015 hit The Ghosts of Versailles.
Jay Hunter Morris first appeared in Los Angeles in 1994 at the Mark Taper Forum in Terrence McNally’s Master Class, with Zoe Caldwell portraying Maria Callas. There, as the character Anthony Candolini, he sang the aria from Tosca, “Recondita armonia”. He first sang it (as scripted) somewhat affectedly (and was marked down), but then repeated it with such purity of feeling that his mentor, overcome with emotion, admitted, “I have never really listened to it before.” An enduring memory of Morris’ is that of him, with Ms. Caldwell on his arm, regularly patronizing (what was then) Otto’s Restaurant after performances and schmoozing with the likes of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau.
Moving ahead to 2005, Mr. Morris, in the role of Mario Cavaradossi, sang not only that aria, but the entire opera for LAO’s student matinee performances of Tosca, also covering that role for the regular performances. Interestingly enough, Morris had never sung the complete opera until he returned here for that revival of this LAO favorite.
For the 2005 stagings, Jay Hunter, mindful of the operatic lore associated with various on-stage anomalous happenings during performances of Tosca (the springy trampoline, the suicidal firing squad, etc.), took whatever precautions he could think of to assure that nothing untoward would happen to him. In Tosca the firing squad is typically composed of six to eight supers. In LAO’s production, some of the firing squad fire loud blanks; the rest fire wads of material that go, “Poof!” Jay Hunter recognized that, given the close quarters separating Cavaradossi from the Firing Squad and observing the high exit velocity of the Poofing material, reasoned that, if the Poofing material hit him below the waist, there was a finite possibility of an accidental impact transmogrifying him (at least on a temporary basis) from voice type tenor to that of countertenor. So, during rehearsals, Jay Hunter gave firm instructions to his Firing Squad, “Aim high, fellas!”
Watching opera often also means reading supertitles – translations of opera text projected on a screen high enough for the whole audience to see. It’s a debated subject. Are supertitles needed or antiquated? While you’ll enjoy the opera whether you speak the language being sung or not, supertitles help you follow along.
Linda Zoolalian knows this well. A fan of opera since she saw a production of La Bohème as a teenager, Zoolalian runs supertitles for LA Opera (a position she has held since 2003). Working supertitles has strengthened her belief that the marriage between voice and text is vital to effect emotion in audience members.