This reviewer being relatively new to opera and having never experienced “Tosca,” we can’t compare the Wildwood Festival’s version of the Puccini classic to any other staging. Let us just say that what we saw was a marvelous presentation, highlighted by three of the best singing voices this area will see.
Gregory Pearson, Christine Donahue and George Dyer, who are all veterans of director Ann Chotard’s opera productions at Wildwood, each had an act to shine above the others, and their performances brought rousing applause from the two-thirds-filled Lucy Lockett Cabe Festival Theatre on Sunday afternoon.
“Tosca” is Shakesperean in its tragic story of two lovers, Mario Cavaladossi and Tosca, whose care for an escaped convict opens the door for another suitor, the evil, dressed-in-all-black Scarpia, to try to steal Tosca from Mario and kill his rival at the same time. With so many deadly sins working at the same time, you know this can’t end happily, and it doesn’t. The program (a cheap Xerox copy rather than a playbill) outlines all this, so nothing’s a surprise even to the uninitiated.
Which leads us to our biggest gripe: Tosca supposedly commits suicide at the end, but with Donahue, who has murdered Scarpia and is distraught over Mario’s “mock” execution gone bad, running off stage pursued by authorities and simply screaming, that’s ambiguous.
A chorus sings off stage at times, unseen. And even though the orchestra was scaled down by half so as not to dominate the stage, Dyer’s tenor was at times inaudible with the other voices.
But, alone in the third act wailing out his predicament, Dyer’s Mario is commanding. Donahue shows a variety of emotions and incredible range in the second act. Pearson, a dominating presence as Scarpia, is a terrific baritone who sets the tone in the first act. The Poitr Sulkowski-led orchestra presents a beautiful score throughout; I can see why “Tosca” is so loved by opera fans.