Devilishly good production of ‘Tosca’

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There are so many wonderful things about the Los Angeles Opera’s current production of “Tosca,” it’s difficult to know where to start. The gorgeous music of Puccini is a given, and the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra’s rendition, under conductor Kent Nagano, makes it soar. So let’s begin with the singers.

Best known is Samuel Ramey. In a remarkable career now in its fourth decade, he is famous for his portrayals of devils, notably in “Faust,” “Mefistofele” and “The Damnation of Faust.” In “Tosca” as the loathsome police chief, Scarpia, he is indeed scary to watch. He is cool, urbane and cruel and when he casually takes off his dressing gown, as a prelude to his attempts to seduce Tosca, it becomes a frightening moment. After all these years, and all those roles (more than 50), his bass baritone is as rich and strong as ever.

Two newcomers to the Los Angeles opera scene exceeded expectations in the roles of Tosca and her lover, the painter, Cavaradossi. Violeta Urmana was an imposing figure in every sense, dominating the stage in gorgeous gowns appropriate for her role as a famous opera singer. She sang beautifully and met the daunting dramatic demands. As Cavaradossi, Salvatore Licitra was also up to the role, with a powerful, yet lyrical, tenor voice.

Michael Gallup, who has sung 45 roles during the 20-year existence of the Los Angeles Opera, was delightful, as usual, as the fussy sacristan, and Hyung Yan does well in the small role of Angelotti, the escaped prisoner.

The direction, too, was splendid, under Ian Judge, who positions the singers meaningfully in every scene. There are many delightful touches, such as in the first act, when the hypocrite, Scarpia, bows down in prayer with the devout throng.

Finally, the sets, used in a previous production, are opulent and dramatic, with credit going to John Gunter. Tosca’s two costumes are magnificent and Scarpia wears two seductive dress suits that emphasize his cool.

No matter how many times one sees the starring characters die, the opera always comes alive.

“Tosca” runs through Dec. 18. Ticket are $35 to $190, and can be obtained by calling 213.972.8001