NOVA Center for the Performing Arts -- Billings, Montana


Review: Rimrock Opera Company’s “Tosca” a Fiery Feast

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 Scarpia.

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 best-loved works.

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.


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NOVA Center for the Performing Arts  -  2317 Montana Avenue - Billings, MT 59101
PO Box 11
Billings, MT 59103
Phone: 406-591-9535