IN REHEARSAL: Dyer (left) and Donahue.
In Giacomo Puccini’s “Tosca,” the singer Floria Tosca is driven by love and music, but she can’t escape life’s tricky turns. The Wildwood Festival of Music and the Arts brings “Tosca” to its stage for two performances this weekend.
Ann Chotard directs a cast of familiar Wildwood faces in “Tosca.” Soprano Christine Donahue and tenors George Dyer, Gregory Pearson and Robert Holden return to Wildwood’s stage. Chotard has assembled a cast of 36 performers and a 14-piece orchestra.
The opera will be performed at 8 p.m. Friday and 3 p.m. Sunday at the Lucy Lockett Cabe Festival Theatre at Wildwood.
“Christine Donahue made her debut here 20 years ago,” Chotard said, “and I’ve waited 20 years to cast her as Tosca. It requires a great deal of maturity, and she’s absolutely brilliant in it. The others are fantastic, too, but I have to single out Christine because it’s something I’ve had in my mind for 20 years and when she was ready for the role, I wanted to stage it. She’s brilliant.”
Donahue, a veteran of opera, decided the time had come for “Tosca.”
“She’s done nine or 10 roles here,” Chotard said, “but Tosca is the ultimate in terms of demand in voice and personality.”
Chotard welcomes back the familiar artists who, with few exceptions, are the main players in Wildwood’s opera cast annually. George Dyer, for instance, gave a terrific performance in “The Barber of Seville.”
Chotard said, “It’s more like a small company of people that I bring back every summer and we’re able to build on things, in a style that we’re accustomed to.”
Originally planning to set the play in New Orleans for a twist, Chotard has shifted it back to the traditional Rome in the 1800s. What Chotard has done differently is have the music re-orchestrated for a smaller group to handle.
Chotard turned to Stefan Kozinski, who reorchestrated “Porgy and Bess” for its international tour, for the new orchestration to suit 14 players.
“It absolutely works beautifully in this theater,” said Chotard, who added that she’s commissioned Kozinski to reorchestrate “Carmen” for next season. “Because it’s a 600-theater [seat] space, when we put a 30-piece orchestra in the pit, it overpowered the hall. We’ve been working with sizing to best balance with the stage. Everything feels full about the orchestration; it’s just scaled back proportionally with the size of the theater. ”
Piotr Sulkowski returns for his sixth year to lead the Opera Orchestra, and six string players from Sulkowski’s native Krakow, Poland, will also be a part of the orchestra.
Along with Donahue, Dyer (as Cavaradossi) and Pearson (as Scarpia) also make their “Tosca” debuts. In the story, Cavaradossi is arrested for hiding a political fugitive and is tortured by Scarpia until Tosca reveals the fugitive’s whereabouts. Tosca then offers herself to Scarpia in return for a pardon for Cavaradossi. While Tosca expects to find eventual happiness with Cavaradossi, that’s not in the cards.
The three-act libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa was based on the play “La Tosca” by Victorien Sardou.
Tickets are $30, $40 and $50 (dinner not included). Students tickets are $10 with student ID. A special menu will be served before the show, and the price is $14. Call 821-7275, ext. 232, for tickets.