February 2006
Opera Review



Tosca Opera (by Giacomo Puccini)
Frank Fetta, Principal Conductor
January 22, 2006
Artemus Ham Hall, UNLV Performing Arts Center

In January, the Nevada Opera Theatre Guild (NOTG) presented Tosca to a nearly packed house. NOTG brought together their admirable version of Puccini's rousing opera. Eileen Hayes, Nevada Opera Theatre's Founder and General Director, and the entire Guild, were proud of their production. They brought in international artists in the lead roles. Frank Fetta conducted a full professional orchestra and twenty-five-member cast. Their fundraising efforts have kept opera alive here in Las Vegas. Their next presentation is Aida, June 9–10, 2006. Tosca was a fine example of what you can expect in June—so don't miss the opportunity. If you wish to further support the Guild's hard work, put their fundraisers on your calendar: Tove Allen Opera Legacy Scholarship Benefit on Sunday, February 12th, 2006, 4:00 p.m., at the home of Architect, Frank Dumont. Their Opera Gala is in April and their International Friendship Luncheon is Saturday, May 13th, at the Wynn Resort. Memberships are as low as $50. And of course, volunteerism is the highest form of support, as your time is the most valuable offer one can make. Contact them at 731-3370.

Music is a commonality in the arts. Music evokes emotions of a separate quality. The spoken word, the portrayal of drama and comedy, in both written or performance art, bring out many responses: laughter, tears, smiles, frowns, and to be sure, emotional reactions of attraction or revulsion, happiness and anger. Artistic expression of our frailties, dark passions, heroism and wonder has entertained us for millennia. Early on, we added music to our depictions of current events, the antics of the gods, and human passions. Music adds depth and magic to an already compelling performance. In reverse, modern television gave musicians their own medium to portray their words and notes in the form of the music video. Opera, in its present form, is the culmination and combination of the arts, bringing together evolving theatre, music presentations and dance performances. Opera continues to evolve, as well, though many prize the Italian opera as the epitome of the form. Tosca is a characteristic example of Italian high opera. And the performers brought to Las Vegas in January for NOTG's Tosca were exemplary singers of the classical operatic singing style.

One of the most complex combinations of all the arts, opera gets everyone involved. An opera draws on artists, costumers, makeup artists, carpenters, painters, stagehands and publicists to notify us of one of these events. So many are needed to bring the words and music to life: singers, actors, musicians and often dancers. All of this effort by so many is reflected in the intensity of the result. Composers of the music and the words by the lyricist intertwine with thrilling results. Giacomo Puccini was such a composer, the 'last great Italian composer.' Cobbling his music to Luigi Illica's libretto's (prose) and Giuseppe Giacosa's verses, he created his opera.

When Puccini saw 'Tosca,' the play by Victrien Sardou, the inspiration for which was Sarah Bernhardt; he was intrigued. At the time, he was writing "Manon Lescaut," the first of his more famous operas. He then wrote "La Bohèmé" (a modernized plagiarism would be "Rent") before finally turning his, by then, perfectionist tendencies to Tosca. Tosca's locations and number of protagonists were bare bones opera presentation.

His basic protagonists were: Floria Tosca (soprano), a famous singer; Mario Cavaradossi (tenor), a painter; Scarpia (baritone), chief of police; Angelotti (bass), an escaped political prisoner; a sacristan (bass); Spoletta (tenor), a police agent; Sciarrone (bass), a gendarme; a gaoler (bass), a shepherd boy (boy soprano). He had one location for each act: Rome. Act I: the church of Sant'Andrea della Valle, Act II: Palazzo Farnese, Act III: Castel Sant'Angelo; date: June 1800. Since its premiere in 1900, Tosca has been performed innumerous times all over the world, and is a staple of many opera companies, such as the San Francisco Opera.

Tosca is also one of a handful of operas that can be presented with six or less lead singers. Puccini felt the dramatic plot 'played with passions,' rather than feelings as did, say, "La Bohèmé." And passionate is what the Nevada Opera Theatre presented, with their staging and casting complementing Puccini's original intent. Jealousies, doubt, patriotic conflicts, chastity, unsolicited desire, betrayal, and even the decisive passion, murder, all come through in resounding fashion. Viktoria Kurbatskaya sang Floria's expressions of love, fear, despondency and anger with zestful, dramatic strength. A renowned opera singer worldwide, Ms. Kurbatskaya, born in Russia, has trained with her country's top divas, attended the Belarusian Academy of Music in 1991, and sang leads with the National Academic Great Opera of the Republic of Belarus.

Dinyar Vania of Syracuse, NY, performed the role of Floria's lover, Mario Cavaradossi. Performing in and around New York, his talents gained him second place in the Licia Albanese-Puccini Competition as well as semi-finalist in Placido Domingo's Operalia (Madrid, Spain.) Vania gave a genuinely warm portrayal of Mario, the artist, common man and loving suitor of Floria. The villain is the pompous, deceitful Baron Scarpia, played with gusto by Zeffin Quinn Hollis. Equally at home as the leading man or the villain, he brought a believable fire to Scarpia's problematic desire for Floria, with an added subtle flavor of righteous evil.

Backed by a twenty-three-member cast and chorus, the Nevada Opera Theater's Tosca was a satisfying experience, promising an equally passionate and professional rendition of Aida in June.

Incidentally, Eileen Hayes is one of the women mentioned in "25 Notable Las Vegas Women." This book's proceeds will benefit the Carole Bellmyre Distinguished Scholarship Fund, which assists students of UNLV and the Community College of Southern Nevada. Bellmyre said, "Each of our 25 notable women has become a role model for women everywhere." Let's all get a copy.

Reviewed by:

Carol Lane Patterson

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