by Thomas Thorspecken, Orlando Florida
Opera is very much alive in Orlando. I went to a rehearsal of the A fully-staged performance presented by Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra at the Bob Carr Theater. This was the first time the singers got to block their scenes using the set, which was still under construction. Actors walked the stage, getting used to the many steps that hadn't been present in prior rehearsals.
Mario Cavaradossi, (Adam Diegel) worked on a large portrait of the Madonna that he based on a woman in the churches congregation that he never met. As he paints, he compares the Madonna's blonde beauty to the beauty of his dark haired lover, Tosca (Keri Alkema). Tosca is a full figured fiery Prima Donna who loves the artist, but she suspects his love of art. She recognizes the face in the painting as the beauty in the congregation and accuses the artist of being unfaithful. He assures her of his love but jealousy still tears at her. Since I was sketching, I seldom had time to look up at the sub titles projected above the stage. I discovered the emotional context of every scene by watching Keri's facial expressions. Her performance acted as my translator.
The artist gives refuge to a political prisoner essentially making him an enemy of the state. Baron Scarpia, (Todd Thomas) chief of the secret police, is searching for the political prisoner. His investigation leads him to the artist's studio. There he finds Tosca and he is smitten. He shows her a red fan he found which she realizes as belonging to the beautiful woman in the painting. Her worst fears seem confirmed and she bursts into tears. She becomes trapped between her allegiance to her rebel artist lover and the scheming of Scarpia, who will stop at nothing in his unquenchable lust for her. The artist is imprisoned and Scarpia claims he will free him if Tosca surrenders to his sexual advances. The explosive triangle comes to a hair-raising conclusion in one of opera’s bloodiest, most intense dramas.
Joel Revzen is the guest conductor for the Philharmonic although at this rehearsal only the piano was on stage. Henry Akida is the stage director. He worked diligently during the rehearsal to keep the staging clear. At one point, the whole chorus came on stage in a processional with candles and one large red banner. Henry realized that the banner blocked some audience members view of Scarpia who stood elevated on the platform. To resolve the issue, the banner holder was moved far to stage right. These are the kind of issues that are only discovered as staging and props come into use. Lisa Buck created the stunning projections that depicted huge domed ceilings. The images lap dissolved between scenes giving the story an added depth. So many elements have to work together to make such a big production a reality. Amazing productions are truly miracles.
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