New Scarpia warrants revisit to Tosca at the Sarasota Opera.
We’d seen and reviewed the opening night cast of Sarasota Opera’s production of “Tosca,” but since there had been an important cast change since then, we felt we should return to take a look at the new Scarpia. As it turned out, we made our second visit to the production on the closing performance of “Tosca” and it was well worth the trip.
Todd Thomas, who has become something of a legend and a definite favorite among Sarasota audiences, hasn’t been back to the area for several years. In that time, he’s become a legendary baritone elsewhere, as well, stepping in — at the last minute — for an ailing singer at Chicago Lyric Opera and garnering rave reviews for his performances as Iago in Verdi’s “Otello,” there. (Thomas seems to revel in evil characters.)
Thomas, who always had a large, brilliant sound, has become even more dazzling a singer and his presence as the malevolent Scarpia recently in Sarasota was positively stunning. From the moment he set foot on stage in the opening act, it was as if the entire opera house stopped. This is a singer who commands attention and, as Scarpia, his wickedness was overwhelming.
But it was the second act that really brought everything together. Thomas seemed to propel the already masterful Kara Shay Thomson to even greater depths in her portrayal of Tosca and, together with the shining voice of Rafael Davila as the painter (Tosca’s lover), Mario Cavaradossi, this became a “Tosca” for the record books. Thomas dies well. He writhes in a way that makes us almost see his evil soul escaping to the nether regions of hell. And, once dead, he stays that way with nary a rise of chest or movement to be seen.
Best of all, of course, was his singing which was as electrifying as his acting. His bearing, together with his voice, were enough to instill fear and loathing in everyone in the house.
Sometimes a second viewing of a production is disappointing. But the closing performance of this “Tosca,” was as thrilling — if not more so — as the opening. The orchestra seemed to catch the energy on stage and, with the triumvirate of Thomas, Thomson and Davila, this was a “Tosca” worth revisiting.