Hub Opera Ensemble and MSO collaborate to stage Puccini's "Tosca"
This isn’t Victoria Cannizzo’s first time embodying the tragic character of Floria Tosca.
In fact, the Millburn, N.J., resident made her Tosca debut in October 2016 in Italy.
But slipping into Tosca’s dress doesn’t make bringing the songstress to life on stage again any less exciting for Cannizzo. Tosca was a woman who had not only great opportunity and love, but also tragedy. Cannizzo will be Tosca again when she performs as a member of the Hub Opera Ensemble for the production of Puccini’s “Tosca” with the backing of the Maryland Symphony Orchestra. The show will be at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 10, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 11, at The Maryland Theatre in downtown Hagerstown. The Saturday night show will be followed by Cafe MSO (see sidebar for more information).
Cannizzo, a soprano, said Tosca is a strong, complex female character.
“She was raised in a convent, and somewhere in her childhood, they realized she had a fantastic singing voice. She thought she was being raised to be a nun but actually they developed her voice and she became a singer,” she explained. “But a singer in those times lived outside of society so she didn’t have that traditional trajectory of an aristocratic woman going into marriage and procreating because that was her duty. Instead, her duty was to serve this voice to God.”
However, being a singer allowed Tosca to live outside of society’s rules, including taking on lovers as an unmarried woman and financial freedom, a rarity for women at the time.
Cannizzo said Tosca is “willing to fight what she believes in and fight for the man that she loves.”
In this production of “Tosca,” members of the Hub Opera Ensemble will join the MSO musicians to perform the opera on the same stage.
“This is a really amazing hybrid between a concert and a full production,” she said.
Cannizzo said “Tosca” is a perfect opera for first-timers saying that “it really pulls at your heartstrings.”
“Even though there’s a lot of historical details to it, it’s not a convoluted plot,” she said. “You meet the main characters immediately. They’re already in the middle of their relationship so there’s no confusion over ‘oh my gosh they just met, why did they fall in love so quickly?’ We’re already in the middle of the story. You immediately feel the tension. The antagonist comes to the first act and you already start to feel the tension. Then in the second act, there’s a lot of really amazing.”
And even though the story is more than 100 years old, Cannizzo said the story is relevant for today’s audiences.
“It’s very pertinent to our time right now in terms of the #metoo campaign and women who are exploited, this is a very clear version of that. And she takes charge. I don’t want to ruin the opera, but she takes charge,” she said.
Nicholas Simpson of New York City returns to perform with Hub Opera Ensemble as Mario Cavaradossi, a painter, and Tosca’s lover.
Simpson, a tenor, said what he loves about “Tosca” is “that there’s a very clear story. It’s a dramatic story.”
“There are things that speak to our experience today. We all know what it’s like to be in love. We all know what jealousy is like. Puccini is sort of is the proto movie music. Movies were not really around when this opera was written, but a lot of what we hear in movie music is present in this opera,” he said. “The orchestra and the music helps tell the story. When you’re on stage and you’re singing a particular song or aria as we call them the music that the orchestra plays is part of our emotional makeup. So you get a lot of insight. Just like in a movie where the music gives you a hint of what the characters are feeling or what’s going on, the same thing happens with this opera.”
And that’s why, he said, he loves performing with the MSO and its conductor Elizabeth Schulze.
“Elizabeth is a wonderful conductor and she worked in opera houses for many years and she’s a wonderful opera conductor and a fantastic leader of all of the forces,” he said. “... It’s always a treat when you work with a conductor who brings the very best out of you. I always feel when I’m singing under her baton that I actually sing better than I might have otherwise.”
David Cook of Frostburg, Md., is making his debut in his “first real role” as Spoletta, who he said is the henchman for Chief of Police Baron Scarpia (portrayed by baritone Gustavo Feulien).
“What I like about this character in this opera is Spoletta has a real presence. A lot of times in Spoletta is very small, but the scenes are very small. He’s in and off but rarely is he actually on the stage,” Cook said, crediting Hub Opera director Joesph Marschner.
Cook, a tenor, said for him, opera “has something about it that I find that a lot of other art forms don’t capture in their expression of emotions. And fundamentally the human voice and what it encompasses and what it can express with the different colors and the emotions. And how you connect with yourself and your voice and how you portray that was very appealing to me.”
Top photo: Nicholas Simpson as Mario Cavaradossi is held back by David Cook as Spoletta rehearse a scene Sunday from "Tosca" at HCC. (By Crystal Schelle)