Summer has arrived across great swathes of the UK, with London seeing temperatures nudge 30C on most days. The last thing most of us sun-worshippers want to do is spend time indoors, let alone surrounded by people we don’t know in a hot and sweltering theatre.
Not all of the capital’s theatres have air-con but luckily the Royal Opera House does, so although there were minor quibbles here and there as I sat through the latest revival of Puccini’s melodramatic, sure-fire hit Tosca, at least I could feel regular and soothing wafts of air circulating around down below.
Unfairly touted as a ‘shabby little shocker’ not long after its premiere in 1900, Puccini’s over-the-top tale of a jealous operatic Diva who is prepared to drop her knickers for the evil Chief of Police (Baron Scarpia) in order to save her lover (the painter Cavaradossi) is probably one of the most popular operas in the repertoire.
And it’s not hard to see why as it has it all, and then some. Set during the Napoleonic Wars the action takes place in 1800, over a twenty-four hour period in Rome. Tosca, the archetypal jealous operatic Diva is lusted over by Baron Scarpia – one of the most feared men in all the city. However, she is in love with the painter Mario Cavaradossi, a rebellious type who is accused of hiding an escaped prisoner. He’s tortured, but Scarpia offers Tosca a way out for her lover… if she yields to his lustful advances, Mario goes free. She agrees, but before Scarpia has had chance to unzip his flies, she plunges a steak knife into his chest, several times, and he expires on the floor.
Tosca then makes her way to the Castel Sant’Angelo where Mario is awaiting execution, but she tells him to prepare for a mock execution as Scarpia, before his death, had given them passage out of the city. The firing squad arrives, they shoot, he falls down. To Tosca’s surprise and horror, though not ours, he’s dead. Game over. To avoid capture there’s only one exit for our poor heroine and that’s off the ramparts of the castle. Big chords from the orchestra. The End.
The Royal Opera fields a strong cast with Martina Serafin as a spitfire Tosca, Scott Hendricks as a malevolent Scarpia and Alexsandrs Antonenko as a virile Cavaradossi, with plenty of Top Cs in his armoury.
The production is by Jonathan Kent and within Paul Brown’s designs, it is super-realistic. You can see if free on Thursday 18th July as part of the BP Big Screens 2013 programme. It’s being beamed to 17 outdoor locations from 7pm – all you need to do is turn up, uncork the Chardonnay, and bag yourself a decent spot.
So there you have it – the perfect summer evening’s combo. World class opera, outdoors, and totally free. What’s not to like?
Here’s a list of all the places where you can see Tosca, free!