Australian soprano Rachelle Durkin in the lead role in Tosca.
Australian soprano Rachelle Durkin in the lead role in Tosca. Stephanie Do Rozario

Durkin takes centre stage as Opera Queensland launches Tosca

PUCCINI'S celebrated Tosca has captivated audiences since its Rome debut in 1900 and last night it was Brisbane's turn to experience the classic opera.

Opera Queensland's latest production debuted to an appreciative opening night crowd at the Lyric Theatre who were treated to a reimaged version of the politically charged thriller.

The production is directed by OQ's Artistic Director Patrick Nolan, conducted by Oliver von Dohnanyi and showcases an all-star cast led by New York-based Australian soprano Rachelle Durkin as the heroine Tosca.

Nolan said a decision to shift the action from its original 19th century setting to 1970s Italy amplified the strength of what is often described as the greatest opera of them all.

Jose Carbo plays the evil Chief of Police Scarpia in Tosca.
Jose Carbo plays the evil Chief of Police Scarpia in Tosca. Stephanie Do Rozario

"The 1970s saw a second wave of feminism emerge, with women claiming their place in a world that had previously refused them,” he said.

"There's a great resonance between the energy of the '70s and the energy of the story.”

Durkin's opening night performance certainly aligned with Nolan's belief that it's more vital than ever for strong female characters to take centre stage.

"I expect that in years to come, audiences at this production will take great delight in being able to say they were there when Rachelle Durkin sang Tosca for the first time,” he said.

The production is set against the era's backdrop of unrest including labour strikes, political assassinations and the influence of religious factions on government.

The choir with Sacristan and Gaoler Shaun Brown.
The choir with Sacristan and Gaoler Shaun Brown. Stephanie Do Rozario

The multi-level sets were created by Tony Award-nominated Australian designer Dale Ferguson, who said his aim was to reflect the parallels between church and state.

"Patrick had already established he wanted to set it in the '70s, so I just threw myself into looking at the Italian political climate at the time seeking cross-references with the original opera which was set around the time of the Napoleonic Wars,” Ferguson said.

While Durkin's powerful portrayal of Tosca deservedly had the audience talking in glowing terms after the lights came up on the darkened stage, there were also strong endorsements of the vocal contributions from fellow headliners Angus Wood (the stoic Cavaradossi) and Jose Carbo (the despicable Scarpia).

Tosca is summarised as a gripping tale of lust, betrayal and cold-blooded murder unfolding at breakneck pace.

News of its strong debut last night will spread quickly among opera lovers, with future audiences having much to look forward to before the season ends on June 22.

For tickets and further information, visit www.oq.com.au

The doomed love story of Tosca (Rachelle Durkin) and Cavaradossi (Angus Wood) is a central theme through Tosca.
The doomed love story of Tosca (Rachelle Durkin) and Cavaradossi (Angus Wood) is a central theme through Tosca. Stephanie Do Rozario

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