Vivienne Kennedy visits Tobacco Factory Theatres to watch a very intimate production of Puccini’s Tosca...


Image - Puccini's Tosca, credit Mark Dawson Photography

The last time I saw this opera it was at the Bristol Hippodrome. They had removed six rows of seats to accommodate Welsh National Opera’s orchestra and I remember the sets doing a good job of conjuring up some of Rome’s impressive buildings.

It was quite different to Opera Project and Tobacco Factory Theatres’ production. Not better, just different.

With its small orchestra, even smaller cast, and simple candle-lit sets, this Tosca feels very intimate. It’s performed in the round, with no member of the audience more than a few feet from the action, and it’s sung in English with no need to watch out for surtitles.

The story is a tragic one featuring love, jealousy, despair, torture, murder and suicide. I’m not giving much away by revealing the lack of a happy ending. That said, Puccini’s music, which ranges from light and lyrical to deeply dramatic, is so beautiful that you can’t help being uplifted by it.

I was in a great position to watch the orchestra and conductor. Usually we only see his or her back, so being able to see the concentration and passion on Jonathan Lyness’s face as he drove the musicians on was fascinating. But that did mean I occasionally forgot to watch what was happening on stage – at one point I realised there were some children skipping around and I have no idea why because I missed their arrival!

Despite not watching them the entire time, I enjoyed the performances of Robyn Lyn Evans as Cavaradossi, Mari Wyn Williams as Floria Tosca, and Nicholas Folwell as Baron Scarpia. The latter was deliciously evil and deserving of his comeuppance when it came.

I will say that I’m not sure about operas that have been translated into English. I’ve seen two or three now and in each case I’ve found it strangely distracting – I find myself trying to hear the words as they’re sung rather than just going with the flow of the music. That’s a personal observation though and I know other people who much prefer it.

Tosca plays at Tobacco Factory Theatres until Saturday 14 October with performances at 7.30pm each evening. If you like your opera to have that up close and personal touch, this is the one for you!


Puccini's Tosca at Tobacco Factory Theatres
Puccini's Tosca at Tobacco Factory Theatres

Opera Project return to Tobacco Factory Theatres this autumn for a co-production of another intensely dramatic and riveting masterpiece from Puccini – Tosca.

Tobacco Factory Theatres
The Tobacco Factory

A popular theatre and café bar in Southville, with a programme of touring and in-house productions, childrens' and music events

The Bristol Hippodrome
The Bristol Hippodrome

One of the country's top provincial theatres, which proudly continues to stage major West End and Broadway productions.