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by admin February 2, 2010

Opéra de Montréal got it wrong this time, and on its birthday too.
To celebrate their 30th anniversary this year, Opéra de Montréal staged Puccini’s Tosca, an opera classic, that is ultimately too somber to commemorate anything but a death.
Set in 1800, Gloria Tosca (Nicola Beller Carbone), a famous Italian singer pesters her boyfriend, Cavaradossi (David Pomeroy) about the portrait he painted of a pretty woman who often prays at the local chapel. The ever-jealous Tosca insists he paints the woman’s eyes black, so that the portrait becomes one of herself. As it turns out, the girl in the portrait is actually the sister of Cavaradossi’s friend Angelotti (Stephen Hegedus). Angelotti is a recently escaped political prisoner on the lam who needs Mario’s help. In agreeing to help him, Mario signs away his own fate as Scarpia (Greer Grimsley), the police inspector who sets out to find Angelotti, wants Tosca for himself and will stop at nothing to get her.

The performances for the vocally demanding show were strong with a decent cast lead by the talented Pomeroy, a Canadian who easily had the most pronounced vocal tone of the male leads. Carbone played Tosca with gusto, but couldn’t sustain the same high energy required for the role.
Last year’s The Magic Flute was upbeat and quite funny, enough so that even the non-opera lover could navigate through the foreign language (in this case, German) and the long-winded arias. Yet, Tosca is a difficult show to take in, especially with a near three hour running time. The “songs,” a loosely applied term for this opera, are more spoken dialogue, as a tune never begins nor ends but just continues as if drifting across the show. The issue here is familiarity, if you know the music from before hand the opera is easy viewing. However, anyone who is unfamiliar with Tosca, or worse yet, someone who isn’t familiar with the art form, will most certainly check out before the conclusion of the three-act show.
The couples seated around me, however, most of whom were in their mid-50s, seemed to enjoy the performance quite a bit, and spoke amongst themselves about how beautiful this production was.

Visually, as is to be expected of the Opéra de Montréal, the show was beautifully staged, with intricate sets depicting a chapel, a castle and a lavish foyer. The lighting was also very well produced in the show, red was used symbolically when a murder took place, completely saturating the scene, intensifying the performances. The sets did lack movement, as the scene was completely stationary until the next act, when the set would be changed to the next location.
Opéra de Montréal has begun one new initiative to really be proud of for its 30-year anniversary, the creation of the French reality show, Apéro à l’Opéra. Six regular folk from Québec who can sing opera compete to win a chance to sing with the Opéra de Montréal company in Tosca this February. The series began airing on Jan. 26 on ARTV, and continues every Tuesday. The reality show is rather entertaining, and is a giant step up from anything American Idol has to offer.

Opéra de Montréal’s Tosca plays at Place des Arts on Feb. 3, 6, 8, 11 and 13. Tickets range in price from $46 to $127. Apéro à l’Opéra airs Tuesday at 7 p.m. and repeats on Sundays at 6 p.m. on ARTV.

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