Ever since it premiered 108 years ago in Rome, Giacomo Puccini's "Tosca" has been a huge audience favorite. Opera companies can't go wrong bringing it into the repertoire with regular frequency. And Utah Opera certainly knows that.
"Tosca" is once again back at the Capitol Theatre this week the fifth time Utah Opera has produced the work in its 30-year history.
After a 15-minute delay at Saturday's opening-night performance due to problems with the supertitles (they were back online at the start of Act II), "Tosca" opened with a spectacular interior scene intended to depict Rome's Sant'Andrea della Valle church.
What distinguishes this production from previous ones (at least the two from the 1990s) is the powerful figure of Baron Scarpia as played by baritone Guido LeBron. His was a wonderfully sinister and villainous characterization.
He brought menacing passion and dramatic force to the role. And his remarkable acting talent was matched by his vocal prowess. He has a dramatic voice that is tempered with fine expressiveness that he used to great effect, especially in his duet in Act II with Tosca, as he alternately threatens and cajoles her into yielding to his lust.
Quite frankly, LeBron stole the show from the other leads in each scene he was in.
Also remarkable among the leads was soprano Cynthia Clayton in the title role. She has a powerful and dramatic voice that can also be exquisitely lyrical. She was wonderfully convincing as Cavaradossi's jealous lover. She also brought infinite sweetness to her characterization in her tender duets with him.
Somewhat disappointing throughout the opening night performance was tenor Scott Piper as Cavaradossi. While he brings a beautifully honed expressiveness to his singing, his voice is soft and doesn't always project well, and he had a few problems with his higher register. However, there was good chemistry between him and Clayton in their duets.
Among the supporting roles, baritone Michael J. Wanko as the Sacristan was, as usual, superb. He is a wonderful actor and singer who brings depth to his characters.
Bass-baritone Gregory Pearson as Angelotti was also notable. A fine singer, he brought compassion to his role.
Conductor Joseph Rescigno's tempos and pacing were on the mark, and stage director Stephanie Sundine brought credibility to the story, not always an easy task with opera.The members of the Utah Symphony comprising the orchestra gave one of their better performances Saturday night, and the members of the Utah Opera Chorus who take part in this production sang wonderfully.