Our reviewer JA cheers the latest production at St John's Church
In Fulham Opera’s well-written and detailed programme, there is a note reading: "We have billed this production as ‘semi-staged’, as it has been put together in a very short time, without a stage director, using the singers’ instincts and (not insignificant) experience as our guide."
They are too modest. The furnishings and props are perfectly adequate and well thought out, and while no attempt is made to reflect 19th century costuming, the clothes worn are appropriate to the characters portrayed. Thankfully, no staging gimmicks, so the audience can concentrate on the plot (helped by subtitles) and the singing.
No orchestra, but a piano accompaniment brilliantly played by Ben Woodward, one of the founders of this opera cooperative.
The first act is never an easy one for Tosca herself (Laura Hudson) in turn kittenish, loving but unreasonably jealous.
Cavaradossi, on the other hand has the first of the big arias, sung beautifully by Roberto Garcia Lopez. Although originally from the Argentine, Roberto has that big luscious sound associated with the best Italian tenors.
It was in the second act that Laura came into her own, giving a moving performance of the woman torn between her loyalty to her lover and his political beliefs and her desperate need to save him from further torture and death if he does not disclose the whereabouts of Angelotti, an escaped political prisoner.
In despair she reveals Angelotti’s hiding place, but her lover’s life can only be guaranteed if she agrees to give herself to Baron Scarpia, Chief of Police, chillingly portrayed by Robert Presley – already a favourite with Fulham Opera audiences.
Laura's "Vissi d’Arte" was sung both beautifully and intelligently, reflecting the puzzlement of a woman who has always led a good life and whom God seems to have deserted in her hour of need.
Although Tosca finally agrees to give herself to Scarpia in exchange for her lover’s life and a safe passage for the two of them, she cannot go through with this and, seizing a knife from the supper table, stabs him and escapes.
The third act begins with the famous aria "E Lucevan le Stelle", again sung beautifully as Cavaradossi writes a final letter to Tosca, but she arrives and tells him of Scarpia’s death.
Their happiness at the idea of a future together was movingly portrayed, but Scarpia has already betrayed them: a mock execution turns out to be real and Tosca leaps to her death (implied by lighting).
One small production quibble: the shepherd singing at the beginning of Act 3 is normally heard as if from a distance, but on this occasion was replaced by a shepherdess, Emma Peaurt, singing on stage which could have been puzzling to anyone new to the work.
Hers was one of the six smaller roles, in two cases doubled up, excellently sung by Marcin Gesla; Peter Brooke and Christopher Killerby. I have seen full-scale productions where minor roles have been a let-down but this was by no means the case here.
Following their performances on Tosca on September 21 and 22, Fulham Opera's next production at St John's Church on North End Road will be Siegfried in February 2013. You can follow this ambitious and successful local company by visiting their website
You can also find them on Facebook and on Twitter
Fulham Opera - dubbed big opera on a small scale - have launched a Friends of Fulham Opera scheme and are inviting local people to join and give them their support.
Fulham Opera Friends can expect:
Fulham Opera Newsletter
Invitations to rehearsals and general dress rehearsal
Meet the cast
Meet the director and production team
Sit in some of the planning, auditions and production related meetings
Fulham Opera are also planning various events such as smaller recitals, pre-performance talks and work experience opportunities should you have a member of your family who would like to try out the professional theatre environment.
For more details of the Friends scheme, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 08444 771000.
September 28, 2012