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Review: Tosca at Margaret Court Arena

Review by Emily White

Opera Australia has brought Puccini’s Tosca to Margaret Court Arena - an unconventional choice of venue necessitated by the closure of their usual State Theatre for renovations. I was curious to see what they would do with the space — and my thoughts were echoed in the conversations of others around me as we made the trek to the arena’s entrance. 

Unfortunately, the sense of anticipation would end at the door as Opera Australia delivered a technically proficient yet stylistically uninspiring production that ultimately felt like a series of missed opportunities. 

With more than half the seating blocked off and a faux-proscenium arch framing the stage, it felt like the goal was to replicate the theatre they were missing rather than embrace the stadium they had. The disregard of vertical space was simply wasteful, and the lighting design, while intelligent, was a far cry from what can be achieved in this venue. Edward Dick’s direction shies away from the potential for spectacle at every turn, taking an understated approach that sits at odds with the scale of the space he had to work with. 

Fotini Dimou’s costume design was similarly uninspiring. The contemporary clothing and props felt like a half-baked attempt at modernisation that was at times confusing and contributed to the overall sense that this production was underdressed. The use of phones and laptops in particular made me cringe — was Tosca communicating with her tortured lover via Zoom? Having the performers looking down at these devices limited their dramatic space, closing off the audience and once again going small where they should have gone big. 

The set design by Tom Scutt succeeded where other elements fell short. The structure of the set consisting of the impressive dome and several bays of candles was a great way to use sleek modern lines suggestive of a larger church space. The darkness beyond these structures felt imposing, and it was genuinely breathtaking when the curtain pulled back at the end of the first act to reveal the orchestra behind (although a shame that they were hidden away again for the rest of the show). It was a standout moment, leaning into the artifice of theatre as an art form, highlighting Scarpia’s manipulative and fraudulent character.

The performers all delivered to a high standard considering the direction and design didn’t give them much to work with. Karah Son in particular brought humour to the titular role, 

and delivered a memorable ‘Vissi d’arte’.

For an opera whose plot could be summarised with the phrase, “all cops are bastards,” Tosca should have been right at home in Melbourne. While Puccini’s work was delivered well by the musicians and performers, the production as a whole was not bold enough to fill the space. 

Image Supplied


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