One of Puccini’s greatest operas has been miraculously transposed to film in this stirring and beautifully sung production featuring some of the hottest opera stars working today. The Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu plays Tosca, whose love for the painter and political radical Cavaradossi (Roberto Alagna, Gheorghiu’s off-screen husband) is destroyed by the villainous Roman governor, Scarpia (played by veteran baritone Ruggero Raimondi). Produced by Daniel Toscan du Plantier, who also brought Carmen, Don Giovanni and Parsifal to the screen, Tosca is a lavish production that does full justice to the mesmerising power of Puccini’s music and Guiseppe Giacosa’s libretto.
What distinguishes this Tosca from most filmed operas is director Benoît Jacquot’s quite audacious approach. From the very start, Jacquot juxtaposes black-and-white scenes of conductor Antonio Pappano and the actor-singers in the recording studio with the staged opera (filmed on a huge, sumptuous studio set) in order to reveal the energy and work that goes into realising a mighty work of lyrical art. At other times he uses soft-focus and grainy footage of the Roman countryside and the interiors of Baroque churches to complement what the actors are singing off-screen. Jacquot demonstrates how cinema can strengthen the opera’s drama in its concentration on the silence of the protagonists, their tortured faces, the intensity of their love, their hate and their fear. Similarly, the astute use of hovering overhead shots and swirling camera angles projects and intensifies the emotional upheaval of the three protagonists the possessively jealous Tosca, the placating Cavaradossi who assures her she has no rivals, and the terrifying Scarpia.
France-Germany-Italy-U.K., 2001. Sung in Italian. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby/dts digital stereo. 120 mins.

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