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The Pick: Tosca, the Canadian Opera Company’s sublimely soapy melodrama

The Pick: Tosca, the Canadian Opera Company’s sublimely soapy melodrama
Carlo Ventre as Cavaradossi clutches Adrianne Pieczonka as Tosca (Image: Michael Cooper)

Puccini’s Tosca has never been a critical favourite. The melodies are just too schmaltzy, argue its detractors, and the plot is too outlandish. Musicologist Joseph Kerman once called it a “shabby little shocker,” and Gustav Mahler walked out of the performance before it was over. But the famously soapy tale of a singer trapped in a torrid love triangle has always been a popular favourite, prompting gasps, titters and OMGs for over a century.

For all the critical jeers, Tosca embodies everything opera should be—this is a show full of murder, torture, infidelity, jealousy, sex, blackmail and revenge, all set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic wars. The Canadian Opera Company’s production—a revival of their 2008 hit—embraces the juicy splendor of the opera, with local star soprano Adrianne Pieczonka headlining as the tempestuous, tragic Floria Tosca. It’s a feast of blood, betrayal and, of course, bosomy dresses—a spectacularly extravagant crowd-pleaser in a season that so far has included the cerebral, high-concept Iphigenia in Tauris and a weirdly stilted Victorian adaptation of Rigoletto. Shows like Tosca are the reason many go to the opera—every emotion is magnified and every note swells to meet those heights. Tosca is a gripping piece of pulpy escapism—the operatic equivalent of a summer blockbuster, delivered in the depths of winter.

The details: To Feb. 25. $45–$318. Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 145 Queen St. W., coc.ca

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