"Tosca" Opens In Seoul

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"Tosca" Opens In Seoul

Murder, politics and sexual extortion. These might sound like Shakespeare's favorite themes, but they are actually the main themes in "Tosca," a highly-political opera by the eccentric Italian composer Giacomo Puccini.

Set in the Napoleonic Era of the early 19th century, Puccini's "Tosca" immortalizes a jealous opera star, Floria Tosca, and Cavarodossi, her artist lover, who works in a church basement as a night porter.

Conducted and produced by two female artists, Elisabetta Maschio and Lee So-young, the opera is a study in human emotions. And as with his previous works "Madame Butterfly" and "Manon Lescaut," Puccini centered on one of his beloved subjects - women.

Full of passion and dynamic impetus, women in Puccini's operas often suffer from some emotional turmoil, whether it be burning jealousy, vanity or deception. And like other women in history who refuses to live up to a typical role, his heroines too, pay a tragic price at the end.

Act I begins with an escaped political prisoner, Angelotti, taking refuge in a secret hiding place in a family chapel. When the painter Mario Cavaradossi arrives to work on his mural, Angelotti recognizes him as a fellow revolutionary sympathizer and asks for his help. Cavaradossi agrees, but conceals his involvement from his lover, Tosca. Meanwhile, the sinister Scarpia, Chief of Roman Police, suspects the conspiracy and attacks Cavaradossi's villa.

Set in Scarpia's apartments, Act II begins with Scarpia threatening Tosca. He demands Tosca to satisfy his lust in order to save her lover from execution. Tosca consents, but stabs Scarpia to death.

In Act III, Cavaradossi prepares for his execution at the Castel Sant'Angelo, a historic execution site. Tosca arrives at the scene full of hope and tells him that they will soon be free, but the firing squad seems all too real. Overwhelmed by grief, Tosca commits suicide.

A major difference between the original play and Lee's production is the appearance of a shepherd in the beginning of Act III. This young boy wipes blood stains left on the execution chamber while humming in a angelic voice. The image of a child singing amidst death is startingly poetic and settled. The young shepherd's gesture of wiping blood also raises ethical questions about history, lust and innocence. However, the work's political aspects are minimized in the Seoul performance.

Descended from a family of musicians, Puccini was the most important Italian opera composer in the generation that followed Verdi. Puccini was born and educated in Lucca and later attended the Milan Conservatory under the guidance of Antonio Bazzini and Amilcare Ponchielli. Puccini began his professional career as an opera composer with "Le Villi," which failed to win prizes but gained public acclaim when it was produced in Milan in 1884. However, it was Tosca, a violent drama based on Victorien Sardou's hit play "La Tosca" that earned Puccini international fame and was sang by some of the most prominent prima donnas of the world.

The heroine in the Seoul performance will be played by Elisabetta Battaglia, an Italian opera singer who also starred in Puccini's "Manon Lescot."

"Tosca" opened last month at the Seoul Arts Center. The next performances will be staged on Oct. 6, 7, 15 and 20.

For more information contact the Seoul Arts Center at 580-1300.

by By Soo-mee Park

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