Review: Rimrock Opera Company’s “Tosca” a Fiery Feast
By JACI WEBB
Of The Gazette Staff
| Posted: Saturday, April 30, 2011 11:00 pm
As Tosca, Billings native Cassandra Norville proves
that beauty survives in the ugliest of times.
A packed Alberta Bair Theater took in the first of two
performances Saturday night of the Rimrock Opera
Company’s production of “Tosca.” They were treated to a
polished production with a 90-member chorus and strong
performances by leads Norville, Jeff Kitto as Tosca’s
lover Cavaradossi, and Douglas Nagel as the evil Baron
The opera is performed in Italian with the English
translation projected above the stage. It is performed
again Sunday at 3 p.m. at the ABT.
Bathed in red light and flanked by 20-foot-tall
paintings showing other beautiful women under pressure,
Norville performed such a stunningly beautiful aria in
the second act that the audience erupted into applause
in the middle of the scene. Norville’s soprano voice
was crisp, yet filled with emotion as she got down on
her knees beseeching God to help her.
“I have lived for
art, I have lived for love,” Tosca pleads to God during
the scene. Tosca is
a devout woman who questions her fate and that of the
handsome artist Cavaradossi. The anguish on Tosca’s
face is reflected by the dramatic paintings on either
side of the stage in the second act showing women being
ravaged by men as Scarpia is about to do with Tosca.
“Tosca” is set in 1800 as Napoleon is marching on Rome.
The opera has been embraced by audiences because of its
inventive orchestration. The characters are introduced
by short musical phrases. The orchestration leads the
action in “Tosca,” which is one of the most frequently
performed operas and one of Giacomo Puccini’s
The opera, under
the musical direction of Andy Anderson, opens inside
the Church of Sant Andrea della Valle. Cavaradossi is
putting the finishing touches on a large painting of a
blond-haired woman with blue eyes. When Tosca sees the
painting, she insists that the woman’s eyes be changed
to black, the color of her eyes.
“Calm your soul, I love you,” Cavaradossi repeats to
the jealous Tosca.
Kitto’s challenging tenor role has him singing at one
point lying on the floor groaning after Scarpia’s men
have tortured him in order to find a political prisoner
he is hiding.
Nagel’s Scarpia is a force — easy to hate because of
his ruthless ways, but magnetic to watch because of his
swagger and dynamic baritone.
“You can shout and scream at the actors in a two-beer
civil manner,” Nagel told the audience during a brief
introduction at the start of Saturday’s show.
It seemed the only character the audience wanted to
jeer at was Nagel’s because he is so despicable.
Busloads of students from Harlowton and Fort Belknap
attended the Saturday night performance along with 30
Rocky Mountain College students, making the ABT full to
the back row of the balcony.
NOVA Center for the Performing Arts - 2317 Montana Avenue - Billings, MT 59101
PO Box 11
Billings, MT 59103