Opera San José continues its 27th Season with Giacomo Puccini's powerfully dramatic opera, Tosca. The story of a popular opera diva brought down by the chief of Rome's secret police, Tosca always leaves its audiences startled and breathless by the searing beauty of Puccini's melodies. Eight performances are scheduled from November 13 through 28 at the California Theatre, 345 South First Street in downtown San José. Tickets are on sale at the Opera San José Box Office, by phone at (408) 437-4450 or online at www.operasj.org. Tosca is made possible, in part, by a Cultural Affairs Grant from the City of San José.
Set in Rome in June 1800, Tosca is the story of an opera diva, Floria Tosca. She is beautiful, brilliant and spoiled and madly in love with a young painter and revolutionary, Mario Cavaradossi. When he is arrested for helping an escaped political prisoner, Tosca subjects herself to the sexual desires of the sadistic chief of the secret police, Baron Scarpia, in a desperate but unsuccessful attempt to save her lover from death. Murder and suicide are her final acts of defiance and bring the story to a stunning conclusion.
Tosca has become one of the most popular of all operas since its premiere in 1900 in Rome, Italy. Based on the dramatic play La Tosca written in 1887 by Victorien Sardou for the great actress, Sara Bernhardt, Tosca, at first glance, is an unlikely vehicle for Puccini. Murder, violence, and lust would seem to be unfamiliar themes for his typically tender, sentimental style expressed in his earlier successes, Manon Lescaut (1893) and La bohème (1896). But his genius triumphs in this political thriller full of arias that are as dramatic and compelling as they are lyrical and heart-breaking. This is an opera where no one escapes death and destiny, yet, for most, their downfall is so powerfully poignant that, indeed, "the stars fall down."
Italian composer Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924) is distinguished as one of the most popular composers in opera history. After his early success with operas Manon Lescaut and La bohème, Puccini began work with librettists Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa to adapt Sardou's play for the opera stage. The pair had already worked with Puccini on La bohème and would again for Madama Butterfly in 1904. Tosca was Puccini's fifth opera and his first venture into verismo, a style of Italian opera noted for realistic depictions of daily life. Tosca was well-received by sold-out audiences when it debuted at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome and cemented Puccini's status as one of the great Italian composers. According to Opera America, Tosca is in the top ten operas performed in the United States.
David Rohrbaugh, Opera San José's founding Music Director and Principal Conductor, will conduct Tosca. Dr. Rohrbaugh has conducted more than 60 productions and 600 performances, including company premieres of La rondine, Der fliegende Holländer, Falstaff, Un ballo in maschera, and Werther. He is a professor emeritus of voice and opera from San José State University, where he taught for 30 years and co-directed the Opera Workshops with Opera San José General Director, Irene Dalis. The November 20 and 21 performances will be conducted by Anthony Quartuccio, a principal conductor and assistant conductor for numerous productions at Opera San José since 1999. Mr. Quartuccio is music director of the South Valley Symphony and assistant conductor of the San Jose Chamber Orchestra. His conducting and instrumental appearances include the Spokane Symphony, Cabrillo and Brevard Festival orchestras, the Santa Cruz Symphony, and the San Francisco Symphony.
Praised for her stage direction of Opera San José's recent productions of La Cenerentola and Carmen, Sandra Bengochea (Rubalcava) returns to the company as stage director for Tosca. Bengochea is well known to Opera San José audiences as a principal artist with the resident company from 2000 to 2004, singing more than 30 soprano roles. Elsewhere, she has performed with Bayshore Lyric Opera, Israeli Vocal Arts Institute, Opera Idaho, The Lewis and Clark Society, Bangkok Opera, and Rimrock Opera.
Bengochea is joined by a distinguished creative team to bring Tosca to the opera stage ----choreographer Lise La Cour, set designer Erik Flatmo, costume designer Elizabeth Poindexter, lighting designer Kent Dorsey, and wig and makeup designer Jeanna Parham.
Alternating in the role of the fiery opera diva, Tosca, are sopranos Rebecca Davis and Jouvanca Jean-BaptistE. Davis appeared as a guest artist with Opera San José last season in the roles of Countess Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro and Magda in La rondine. She was a member of the resident company in 2008-2009 appearing as Tatyana in Eugene Onegin, Adina in The Elixir of Love, Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte, and Micaela in Carmen. She has performed with Chicago Opera Theater, DuPage Opera Theater, Sarasota Opera, Kentucky Opera, Opera North, American Opera Group, Intimate Opera, Wagon Wheel Theater, Music by the Lake, and Opera Theatre North. Most recently she was a participant in San Francisco Opera's Merola Opera program. Haitian-American soprano, Jouvanca Jean-Baptiste is a first year member of Opera San José's resident company and debuted in the title role to critical acclaim in the company's West Coast premiere of David Carlson's Anna Karenina. She made her mainstage debut with Florida Grand Opera in the role of The Abbess in Suor Angelica and was a semi-finalist in The Jensen Foundation Vocal Competition. Previously, she sang with West Bay Opera, understudying the role of Cio-cio-san in Madama Butterfly. Other roles in the soprano's repertoire include Suor Angelica (Suor Angelica), Mother (Amahl and the Night Visitors) and Miss Rose (Lakmé).