Wineke Review: Tosca is a Madison Opera Triumph

The Madison Opera's performance of "Tosca," Giacomo Puccini's opera of love and treachery, is an absolute triumph both musically and dramatically.

The principals -- soprano Melody Moore, tenor Scott Piper and bass Nmon Ford -- act as if they love their work and the audience, in turn, loves them.

I have been attending performances of the local group since 1980, and I have never heard a better blend of soprano, tenor and bass. Often one voice tends to dominate the stage, but Moore, Piper and Ford fit together smoothly and beautifully.

"Tosca" dates from 1900 and is set in Rome. It begins in a church and ends with a firing squad.

Piper sings the role of Mario Cavaadossi, a painter hired to prepare a portrait of Mary Magdalene. His lover, Floria Tosca, a jealous singer, is in turn sought by Baron Scarpia, who has Cavaradossi arrested and tortured; he then propositions Tosca to sleep with him in order to save her lover's life.

Opera's end either in death or in humiliation; in this case, all three of the stars perish. Tosca knifes Scarpia. Cavaradossi dies from a firing squad (Scarpia promised Tosca the guns would fire blanks; he lied.) and Tosca leaps from a parapet. It's a pretty well-known opera.

Not only does Moore give a beautiful performance, her dive from the parapet was spectacular. She just stretched out her arms and toppled backwards, which is certainly a definition of a trust fall.

Moore will be back in Madison Dec. 6-8 as a soloist for the Madison Symphony Orchestra's Christmas spectacular.

Ford is something of an unusual selection for Scarpia. Most productions of the opera cast Scarpia as a gross and disgusting creature. Ford is slim, quite handsome and projects not so much piggish lust as calculating evil. Even his costume, which vaguely resembles a Halloween skeleton suit, hints of evil.

And Piper, the hapless, somewhat romantic painter, kind of bumbles his way through the performance. His character develops his own charm.

Also doing their part in the cast are Ryan Kuster, who sings the role of Cesare Angelotti, a dissenter from Scarpia's authoritarian rule, who breaks out of jail and takes refuge in the church, where he meets Cavaradossi; Scott Brunscheen, Spoletta, Scarpia's associate; Nikolas Wenzel, a drunken sacristan at church; and a local singer Greg Walters, who plays a jailer.

A special role is sung by a young Madison artist, Nathaniel Johnson, who opens the third act with an off-stage aria and does a very nice job.

All in all, a very pleasant experience for those who love opera.

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