Opera Review

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‘Tosca’ returns with new principals

By Juliet Schoen / Staff Writer

The Los Angeles Opera is bringing back “Tosca” yet again, but this is one opera that never palls. The story is compelling with its courageous heroine and dastardly villain. Best of all is the music, which is Puccini at his lyrical best. A revival of “Tosca” is most fitting as this is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Giacomo Puccini. The opera is being presented in repertoire with the Italian master’s other work, “La Rondine,” at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion through June 21.

The opera is based on Sardou’s play, “La Tosca,” which is about a famous opera diva who is asked to give into the desires of Rome’s police chief in order to save the life of her lover. The singers in the three pivotal roles are internationally known and bring their vocal authority to the production.

Tosca, the ill-fated heroine, requires an exceptional singer and Adrienne Pieczonka comes close. She looks gorgeous in the costumes provided and sings with a feathery tone and sure range, although sometimes shrilly. As Mario Cavaradossi, her lover, Neal Shicoff reveals a strong tenor voice but it has a rather gruff edge. The two are a sympathetic pair, but lack the fiery passion necessary.

The lecherous Scarpia is played by the reliable, totally secure Juan Pons. A longtime favorite of opera fans everywhere, he has sung the role of Scarpia many times and conveys the necessary sense of evil.

Although the sets and costumes have been seen before, they are still serviceable. The sets for each of the three acts, created by John Gunter, are sumptuous and evoke the proper mood. Ian Judge, the director, gives the production pace.

The excellent Los Angeles Opera Orchestra was conducted by Sir Richard Armstrong.