Good and evil. Love and lust. Art and politics. You couldn’t find two men further apart than the romantic, heroic painter Mario Cavaradossi and the violent, lust-driven Baron Scarpia. But in Puccini’s fast-paced war drama, the two are thrown together by their fascination with the same woman: the beautiful, feisty singer Floria Tosca.
We asked the two sensational singers performing these roles in Melbourne to reveal a little of their insights into the hero and villain of Puccini’s popular opera.
Claudio Sgura on singing Baron Scarpia
Sgura exploded onto the Australian opera stage with a gripping performance of Iago in Opera Australia’s Otello in Sydney in 2014.
“We see the peak of Scarpia’s dark side in the Te Deum,” says Sgura, in a scene that he describes as almost blasphemous. “Tosca gives him such an erotic charge that it completely clouds his mind – he forgets he is in a church!”
In this moment, the baritone says, the audience should have no doubt of Scarpia’s diabolical nature.
If that wasn’t enough, Puccini also finds ways to signify Scarpia’s darkness in the music – like in a film. The ominous tetrachord that opens the work and recurs throughout Scarpia’s scenes is a constant reminder of his violence: dissonant, slow, loud and rough, it conveys both his evil and his power.
Sgura says that every time he performs the role, his ability to embody Scarpia grows. “I want to convey to the audience his emotional and psychological complexities, on stage.”
The power of Puccini is in the passion of his music, Sgura says. “There’s an emotional heartbeat inherent in all of his music that cuts to the heart.”
Diego Torre on singing Cavaradossi
Diego Torre’s warm and powerful tenor voice won Australian audiences over the moment he debuted for Opera Australia in A Masked Ball. He reprises Cavaradossi in Melbourne after singing it in Sydney in 2013.
“Cavaradossi is a noble character that I really enjoy playing,” Torre said. He’s a true artist with a duality that makes the role exciting. “On one hand he has an immense love for Tosca, and on the other his revolutionary ideas of justice and freedom.”
Cavaradossi is a man with intense determination. “With extraordinary sensitivity and passion, Cavaradossi is unafraid to pursue the high ideals that at the end will contribute to his death.”
Torre says that each time he sings a role, his interpretation of the character is enriched, both as his experience and confidence grows and as he discovers the perspective of each new cast and creative team.
“This production is particularly beautiful, and I love it. So it’s very comfortable to move and sing around it, and the more you feel comfortable, the more you get the confidence to try new things on stage.”
It’s the beauty of live opera, he says, “every performance is unique and unrepeatable. ”
Puccini’s beautiful music offers plenty of inspiration on its own, Torre says. “The character’s psychology, the drama and all the emotions involved – Puccini uses the music to take them to maximum levels.”
Tosca is at Arts Centre Melbourne from November 12 – December 13.