I had carefully selected my outfit for my first night at the Opera. As I buttoned up my dress shirt I reflected on my youth…I grew up in the suburbs, to parents who loved the performing arts. We regularly drove into the city to enjoy plays, musicals and ballets when I was growing up. My first musical was The Secret Garden (my mothers favourite) and first ballet was The Nutcracker (a Christmas favourite). I remember after watching the Nutcracker I couldn’t help but prance inside the underground parking as my parents rolled their eyes and prepared for the drive back to the burbs. I would enthusiastically rant about the costuming, power of the actors on stage and goosebumps that the experience gave me. I was a queer little child and these passions still possess me. I was ever so excited to be heading to Toronto’s Four Season Centre for the Performing Arts to watch The Canadian Opera Company’s premier of Puccini’s famed Italian Opera, Tosca.
I hopped on the subway and groaned once the loudspeaker announced that the train was experiencing mechanical failure. They called a TTC repair dispatch and I slumped in an empty seat in the crammed car. I sat wedged beside the wall and an outrageously dressed women wearing a faux feather coat, beaver skin hat and Tammy Faye makeup. After a painful and restless wait (in which to my horror I envisioned missing the Opera all together) the train finally started to move itself out of College Station. I stood up and prepared to get off at Queen Street bound for University Avenue. I felt squished like a sardine and when the subway doors opened we all spilled out onto the floor. I noticed a jerk of my coat as I was pushing my way through the subway doors. As I was taking the escalator up to Queen Street I realized that my TTC Metropass had been stolen out of my pocket. I felt so violated and ticked off. Arriving at the theatre I was filled with despair. I had never been a victim of blatant theft before and my being was filled with melancholy.
Once at the COC Welcome Desk I grabbed my tickets and media kit for the show and waited for my date, the always glowing Jennifer Anne Dumaran to arrive. I told her about my plight and whilst waiting for the doors to open we inspired ourselves by walking around the lobby taking pictures of the stunning space. The doors opened, we found our seats and I made a visit to the members of the orchestra who were readying their flutes and trombones. The lights dimmed, the audience roared with applause and the curtain lifted.
Tosca is an Opera in three acts by Giacomo Puccini. It premiered at the Teatro Constanzi in Rome on 14 January 1900 (almost exactly 112 years ago)! The work, based on Victorien Sardou’s 1887 French-language dramatic play, La Tosca, is a melodramatic piece set in Rome in June 1800, with the Kingdom of Naple’s control of Rome threatened by Napoleon’s invasion of Italy. Puccini saw Sardou’s play when it was touring Italy in 1889. Turning the word French play into a succinct Italian Opera took four years.
Tosca’s fast-paced plot is full of romance and intrigue. Tosca is a famed opera singer whose lover has revolutionary sympathies. In trying to protect the man she loves from a blood-thirsty chief of police, Tosca finds herself caught in a web of corruption, lust and betrayal and ultimately commits an act of murder. The title role is one of the composer’s most complex and fascinating heroines, fit for great operatic actresses.
A night at the Opera was exactly what I needed. It’s amazing how you can enter a space wallowing in gloom from the unfortunate circumstances that life throws at you and find yourself moments later drifting off into a colourful romantic Roman landscape some 200 years ago. I knew I’d enjoy Tosca for its costuming and melodramatic borderline corny romantic rants (often referring to idealized love filled with sunsets, warm breezes and 1000 kisses). Opera is a quick ticket for an evening of indulgent relaxed escapism. I rested my chin on my palm and threw myself into the angst, irony and passion of the characters on stage. Puccini saves the day.