Parterre helpfully points out that today is Tosca Day, the day in 1800 on which the events of Sardou's play take place. I'd never have known otherwise. I know May 20th is Eliza Doolittle Day and that yesterday was Bloomsday, but Tosca trivia is not really my strong point. Maybe it would be if I'd known it longer, but I was late coming to Tosca. I mean, I knew the basic contours of the opera — they're hard to avoid, once you're living the operatic life — but it's only been in the last eighteen months or so that I've really got to know it properly.
Most of that was the crash course I underwent towards the end of 2009. Reason? Cheryl Barker. She's the reason for quite a lot of my operatic choices. I moved to Sydney just a little bit too late to see her previous Tosca for Opera Australia, so when they announced her for the 2010 season, I had to prepare myself. And since I knew I'd be unwilling, in the immediate wake of her Tosca, to listen to anybody else's, I figured I'd better listen to plenty of them beforehand. So I did. I was buying (or acquiring) a new Tosca every week or so, listening to it constantly, getting to know that thing inside out — and then she cancelled on me.
For those of you who used to read my previous blog (is that most of you?) this is ancient history, of course. Cheryl pulled out of the show and was replaced by Takesha Meshé Kizart. Christopher Alden's modern, plot-altering production divided audiences; I liked it a lot on first and second viewings, but after five shows and two casts, never really need to see it ever again. I'd immersed myself in Tosca for the sake of Cheryl, but as it turned out, it was immersion for its own sake — and a good thing too. Soprano devotion might not be the loftiest, most intellectual incentive for study ever, but it's sure as hell an effective one.
When all's said and done, though, the sting of missing out on Cheryl's Tosca has never fully faded. To be fair, I've been spoilt rotten with opportunities to hear my favourite soprano — nearly sixty times now, I think — so I can hardly complain — but every time I listen to some Tosca, I remember. Which is why I'm oh so happy to have been given a second chance. Cheryl stars in Opera Queensland's Tosca in October this year, and despite my having made the curious decision to leave the country in which my Number One Diva resided, I won't miss this one. I have tickets for two performances, October 20th and 22nd. The production is John Copley's much-loved and very traditional staging — the one Opera Australia shunted out in favour of the Alden, and the kind of show which ought to be a wonderfully blank canvas for Cheryl's towering gift for characterisation.
Colour me happy. This doesn't entirely blot out the pain of missing her Capriccio, which opens in Sydney in just a few weeks — I still hate pretty much everyone who's going to see her as Madeleine — but given a choice between the two, it had to be Tosca, right? Of course it did.
Happy Tosca Day, everyone. If you've made it this far, here's some Corelli for you.