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‘Tosca’ brings St. Pete Opera back to the Palladium

Bill DeYoung



Alexandra Batsios sings the title character in St. Pete Opera's "Tosca." Photos by Jim Swallow.

Along with its intense, dramatic score and soaring arias, Puccini’s Tosca is one of opera’s most well-known thrillers, with a multi-layered plot containing as much lust, betrayal, murder and intrigue as a classic 1940s film noir.

St. Petersburg Opera’s 17th season begins with this weekend’s full production of Tosca at the Palladium Theater, with artistic director Mark Sforzini conducting the orchestra.

Adam Cioffari

Adam Cioffari is the opera’s director, which means he handles everything the audience sees onstage. It’s not exactly the same as herding cats – these are professional performers – but it takes specific visual and organizational skills.

Think of him as the director of a play.

“The difference,” Cioffari explains, “is that as an opera director you’re working with a constant soundtrack. You have the job of the conductor, in a weird way, because you set the rhythm of the dialogue and the stage action, along with the cast of course.

“But the score itself, the orchestra, is another complete component. The orchestra is constantly playing, and it weaves this tapestry that’s constantly going. And you have to work alongside that.”

Cioffari, who previously stage-directed SPO’s acclaimed productions of The Merry Widow and Cosi fan tutte, is the artistic administrator of Maryland Lyric Opera. He is also an opera singer (bass-baritone) who performs around the country.

Being a vocal artist himself, he says, is a big help. “So much that I do as a director is as a result of having been in the rehearsal room for as many years as I have, as a singer.

“I think I’m very mindful of what the singers themselves require. I’d like to think that I’m a very singer-friendly director, because I’m familiar with the challenges and the obstacles, and the requirements the singers face when they’re doing a full production. I try to balance it all out in terms of the musical requirements, but also the dramatic ones as well.”

One thing both he and Sforzini must do is understand, and think hard about, what the composer wanted.

“Puccini, in this opera particularly, proves himself to be such a master of the theater,” Cioffari says. “He’s so precise with the theatrical timing. He has such a sense of how long things are supposed to take.

“As a stage director, with Tosca even more attention needs to be paid to the music, and to the score, so that you know how long things are supposed to take onstage. That’s one of the things that I’ve tried to focus on the most during this process.”

Tosca is sung in Italian, with English translations projected above the stage. It is performed Oct. 14, 16 and 18. Tickets available here.

Seunghyeon Baek is Scarpia in “Tosca.”








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