My main motivation to attend the Aix-en-Provence Festival this year was Romeo Castellucci’s stage production of Mozart’s “Requiem”, which also provided a timely pretext to see Michel van der Aa’s "Blank Out" and Adam Maor’s "The Sleeping Thousand". They all met my expectations. However, it was Christophe Honoré’s new production of "Tosca" that blew my mind. Two Toscas are seen on stage: Catherine Malfitano (the “old diva”), who embodied Tosca in Andrea Andermann’s “Tosca live from Rome” 1992 opera film, and Angel Blue, who sings the title role. The production proposes a sensibly sympathetic, yet non-apologetic reflection on the figure of the diva, while drawing attention to the violence that surrounds and pervades her/their lives and careers. Among the key moments are the final scenes of the first and third acts in which Scarpia’s ominous soliloquy and the protagonist’s suicide take on completely different senses. Cinematic references abound throughout—from allusions to Schroeter, Bergman, and Zeffirelli to the actual screening of sequences from Giuseppe Patroni Griffi’s and Gianfranco de Bosio’s film adaptations of Puccini’s masterpiece. This all confirms how fruitful the exploration of the film/opera interplay in operatic dramaturgy can be. Regardless of what one may think of the reading proposed—some critics turned their noses up at the excess of narrative information brought about by the duplication of Tosca—what strikes me the most in this production is that, thanks to the mise-en-abyme effect, in which fiction and reality intertwine within fiction, the stage director’s interpretation runs somehow parallel to the original plot (rather than being forced upon it). This in turn suggests an inversion or, perhaps more precisely, an accumulation of roles whereby “Tosca” becomes both the object and the agent of interpretation.
Last but not least, I cannot help but mention that Marina Abramovic was sitting a couple of seats away from us. I am very much curious to see what influence, if any, this production will have on her “Seven Deaths” opera project that is scheduled to premiere in Munich in April 2020.
Notes & Sketches
This is a bunch of brief, often most personal, and not rarely idiosyncratic notes, which I plan to publish here and elsewhere. They are exercises in thinking and writing—fragments, digressions, sketches for a future book dedicated to opera and film