Opera Scotland

Tosca in Scotland

Posted 7 Oct 2019

Tosca was given its first Scottish performance at Glasgow's Theatre Royal on 26 February 1910 by the Moody-Manners company.  It featured Fanny Moody herself in the title role and the Irish tenor Joseph O’Mara as Cavaradossi, with their leading baritone William Dever as Scarpia. The conductor was Richard Eckhold, a veteran who had played in orchestras directed by Wagner himself. 

Tosca was performed occasionally over the next forty years, but only became popular here after the war. Alexander Gibson conducted it on the first visit of his Sadler’s Wells company in 1957, shortly after his Covent Garden debut with the same work. Victoria Elliott was the Tosca on a tour including Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen. The Wells brought a new production north in 1961, featuring two familiar names, Charles Craig and Peter Glossop, as Cavaradossi and Scarpia.  Surprisingly, Tosca has never yet been performed at the Edinburgh International Festival.

Scottish Opera's Anthony Besch production, launched in 1980, has been seen dozens of times with different singers joining the cast over the years, including Peter Glossop. There was also in 1986 a piano-accompanied tour of the Highlands which featured a young Anthony Michaels-Moore as Scarpia.

 More recent stagings include English Touring Opera’s visit to Perth in 2006, set in a simple black box, but very effective as drama in a small theatre.  Visits by Ellen Kent’s Moldovan company have featured Tosca regularly.  In 2002, Cavaradossi was sung by the company’s veteran head, Petre Munteanu, over half a century since his Edinburgh Festival debut with Glyndebourne as Ferrando in Così fan tutte – surely a record.

Since then Heritage Opera performed a reduced version in the Gaiety Theatre, Ayr in 2014. Sarah Helsby Hughes was Tosca, Nicholas Sales Cavaradossi and Mark Saberton Scarpia. The principals repeated their performances for the same company at the McRobert Arts Centre in Stirling in 2015.

English Touring Opera brought the work to the Perth Festival in 2017, with Samuel Sakker as Cavaradossi, Paula Sides as Tosca and Craig Smith as Scarpia.

 One curiosity – in all the performances we have found in the past century, not a single Italian soprano appears in the role of Tosca.  Scottish Opera’s exponents – Marina Krilovici, Nelly Miricioiu, Nina Rautio, and all the rest – have come from Eastern Europe, Russia, Canada, England – no Scots and no Italians.  Further, we have only found one Italian tenor, and one Italian baritone!

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