Now she finally makes it to Tosca, as planned, having already endeared herself to Royal Opera House audiences with her real-life heroism. As Puccini's heroic fictional opera singer, Stundyte is a wonderful singing actor, who really inhabits her role. Kittenish as the lover of painter Cavaradossi, her Floria Tosca is every inch a vocal star, the Taylor Swift of her day. In the Rome of 1800 she has a big following. You could call them Toscies.
This is not the most powerful singing ever in this oft-staged production by Jonathan Kent – and two more fine sopranos, Angel Blue and Sonja Yoncheva will sing performances in July. But Stundyte's acting puts her in a special league alongside truly believable artists such as Ermonela Jaho and Lisette Oropesa.
Marcelo Puente as Cavaradossi in Tosca. Photo: Marc Brenner
Playfully jealous teasing with Cavaradossi quickly gives way to resistance and terror when Tosca is cornered by the lascivious chief of police Baron Scarpia. After the church-set first act, Act Two in Palazzo Farnese unfolds in an exceptionally alarming way, baritone Gabriele Viviani's bullying Scarpia dwarfing her vulnerable form.
Huge credit, too, to conductor Karen Kamensek who draws from the Orchestra of the Royal Opera splashes of colour as vivid as the paintwork in Sant'Andrea della Valle's religious art. If the voice of Cavaradossi, as sung by Argentinian tenor Marcelo Puente, feels a little scumbled, it suits this slightly raffish figure. His Act Three hymn to life, 'E lucevan le stelle', hung in the air beautifully on first night.
As escaped political prisoner Angelotti, Armenian baritone Grisha Martirosyan made an instant impression: it's a big responsibility, being the first to sing, and he cranked up the drama straight away.
Ausrine Stundyte as Tosca and Gabriele Viviani as Scarpia. Photo: Marc Brenner
Jonathan Kent's 2006 production, now on its 13th revival, feels unsurpassable, largely because it puts Puccini's succinct but multi-layered score first. Every note is visually interpreted with intelligence and impeccable timing. Every particle of that Hadron collider that is opera comes together with explosive effect – solo and chorus singing, acting, orchestral conducting and playing, set design, costume, lighting, movement...
If you've never been to an opera, start here. If you know Tosca back to front, start again. Or investigate Royal Opera streaming. But then give yourself the biggest treat and be sure to experience this masterpiece of composition and performance live.
Tosca is sung in Italian with surtitles in English. Performances are on 8, 11, 19, 24 Feb; and from 1 to 21 July 2024. Click here for details and booking
|Tosca, Royal Opera House review
|Royal Opera House, Bow Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD | MAP
05 Feb 24 – 21 Jul 24, 16 performances 5-8 Feb and 1-21 July 2024. Start times vary. running time 3hr, including two intervals
|Click here for details and booking