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Magnificent Voices and Lovely Sets Make the North Carolina Opera’s Tosca Extraordinary

When the curtain rises on the North Carolina Opera’s fully staged production of Italian composer Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca, sung in Italian with English supertitles, conducted by Joseph Rescigno and directed by David Paul, with lighting by Tlaloc Lopez-Watermann, it is 1800 in Rome. Napoleon’s forces are bearing down on the city, threatening to occupy the town.

Powerful church leaders and the wealthy landowners try to conserve their power at all costs. When political detainee Cesare Angelotti (Sabri Karabudak) escapes from prison; and with the help of painter friend Cavardossi (Scott Quinn), he hides out in a church. However, a powerful, chief of police, Scarpia (Malcolm MacKenzie) vows to find Angelotti and punish all who have helped him hide from the authorities.

In order to get information about Angelotti’s whereabouts, the sadistic Scarpia decides to use his power to manipulate Tosca (Alexandra Lobianco), who is an acclaimed singer and the girlfriend of Cavardossi. Scarpia has Cavardossi arrested, and he forces Tosca to bear witness to his torture. Cavardossi refuses to reveal any information to Scarpia, and his torture continues.

Scarpia tells Tosca that she can end Cavardossi’s pain by telling him what she knows about Angelotti. Further, if she will submit to Scarpia’s carnal desires, Scarpia promises to set Cavardossi free. While Tosca does not trust Scarpia, she cannot bear to hear her lover in pain, so she gives Scarpia the location of Angelotti. Further, she agrees to have sex with Scarpia only if he will guarantee Cavaradossi’s safely as well as her own. But can she trust Scarpia?

We must give kudos to costume designer Glenn Avery Reed and set designer David Gano. From the wrought-iron and gold church gates, to the thick granite walls of Scarpia’s palazzo, the attention to detail showed, as did the sumptuous details on Tosca’s finery and Scarpia’s jackets. These are the details that elevate the production from ordinary to extraordinary.

We really enjoyed the slapstick antics of the ancient cleric Sacristan (Donald Hartmann) and the terrific vocals of baritone Malcolm MacKenzie and soprano Alexandra LoBianco. Unfortunately, Scott Quinn’s dynamic Cavardossi and Sabri Karabudak’s subtle Angelotti had trouble rising above the strains of the accompanying North Carolina Opera Orchestra. And at almost three hours, with two intermissions, this may not be a good entry opera for those new to the art. However, there is a lot of good here to enjoy, with the orchestra, the lovely sets, and the voices. Ah, the voices.

Ultimately, we will leave you with questions! Will Tosca follow through with the devil’s pact? Will a scoundrel like Scarpia keep his word if she complies? Will Tosca join the #MeToo movement? Will Tosca and Cavardossi escape to freedom?

Go see the show and find out!

The North Carolina Opera presents TOSCA, a fully staged production, sung in Italian with English supertitles, at 2 p.m. April 7 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.

TICKETS: $23.46-$98.98, with $15 Student rush tickets available, starting at 12 noon the day of show.


NCO Box Office: 919-792-3853.

Ticketmaster: 800-877-7575 or

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Tosca (1900 three-act opera): (Encyclopædia Britannica) and (Wikipedia).

Giacomo Puccini (Italian composer, 1858-1924): (Encyclopædia Britannica) and (Wikipedia).


Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she’s not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.

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Categorised in: A&E Theatre Reviews, Lead Story, Reviews