Tosca Review Slider


Posted: 14th April 2014
Photography: Karl Vella

Tosca Event 

Vissi d’Arte, Vissi d’Amore

Most certainly, Fantini’s poignant rendition of the Vissi d’arte was a highlight of the evening stepping it up from lavish to sumptuous. But the Vissi d’arte aria found a higher-order meaning last Saturday, April 12th 2014 when the Gaulitanus Choir, in collaboration with Taormina Festival, staged Puccini’s Tosca at the Aurora Theatre, Gozo.

Vissi d’arte, vissi d’amore – I lived for art, I lived for love – are common ‘mission statements’, for both Aurora opera house and Gaulitanus choir. The Aurora Opera House, has guardedly built a reputation of being a chief production house in local opera, setting new standards and raising yardsticks every year. But, as far as this Tosca (April 2014) is concerned, the Aurora Opera House was only a proud host.

Coincidentally, it shares the same maestro – Colin Attard, who, apart from being the resident conductor of the Aurora Theatre (and the Leone Band), also heads and directs the Gaulitanus Choir (which he founded in 1990). This secular Gozitan choir is active on various fronts, with its latest ambitious venture being the organization of the Gaulitana: A Festival of Music. Slowly but steadily, it established itself as a leading annual musical appointment during lent and Eastertide. But, as if it borrowed Victoria city’s motto – A magna maxima, (from great supreme) – the Gaulitanus wanted to try out new waters, hence (full-scale) opera.

Experience in the opera sector – thanks to a good number of years of volunteering in the Aurora’s own productions – coupled with the healthy teaming with the Taormina Festival, produced the success we were lucky to witness last Saturday.

The curtain was drawn to reveal an impressively articulate set, showing the interior of San Andrea della Valle church.  On the opposite side: an almost sold out auditorium (by far, the largest one on the islands), plus a whole level of boxes full of opera connoisseurs.

From the pit, Colin Attard lead the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, who has performed the same opera, as an Aurora Production, in October 2011 (followed by Turandot 2012 and Falstaff 2013). In front of him, he had a versatile cast lead by the great Norma Fantini in the title role. She too had her a-magna-maxima evening. So if her Vissi d’arte in act 2 was poignant, the whole of her act 3, up to her last verse “O Scarpia, Avanti a Dio!” complemented with a dramatic hurl, was emotional so much so the audience could be felt gasping for breath and crouching with empathy.

Piero Giuliacci brought out the romantic artist whose advances of his love towards Tosca contrasted sharply with those of (equally acting-wise skillful) Francesco Landolfi (Baron Scarpia). Giuliacci’s best-performed showpieces too came in Act 3, when Michalengelo’s Vatican Cupola and the statue of the Archangel Michael, dimly yet strikingly lit by Lorenzo Tropea, set the background. His Lucevan le stelle was one of his best moments, igniting a hearty applause that could have not been suppressed, not even if the conductor went on with the music.

It is true that Baron Scarpia does not feature at all in act 3 as his fate had been sealed by Tosca at the end of act 2; it is true that act 2 did not enjoy the lushness of scenes as act 1; and it is also true that the trio part when Cavaradossi kicks off his stance with “Vittoria!...” is worth a special mention (as is Tosca’s Vissi d’arte – but that point is taken). But, in all his merit, Francesco Landolfi owned the second act both scenically and vocally, not because there was nothing better to look at or listen to, but because he earned it with flying colours! The more he makes you hate him, the more you have to love him for it. And it was very difficult for anyone in the theatre not to feel like that about him.

The rest of the cast, as well as the Gaulitanus choir, breathed vitality, and complemented the performance with a fine and pleasing vocal tone, bringing merriment, devotion, treason and tragedy to play. These included Gianluca Lentini doubling as Angelotti and Sciarrone, Giovanni Di Mare as the amusing sacristan, Andrea Schifaudo as Spoletta, Louis Andrew Cassar as the gaoler and Annabelle Zammit, who opened (vocally) act 3 with her offstage rendition of the roman shepherd.

Enrico Castiglione’s artistic direction was efficient, effective and delightful as much as his set was, i.e. extremely a lot. Costumes, designed by Sonia Cammarata were at par.

With all of this, the Gaulitanus choir saluted its audience within the Aurora, and the Aurora cheered back as a rousing applause roared throughout a lengthy curtain call. And the next morning? The Aurora continued to live and the Gaulitanus proceeded with its Gaulitana: A festival of music… all for art, all for love, as Puccini put it to music “Vissi d’arte, vissi d’amore”, all happily ever after, until the next one.


Act 1 Album IconIcon Gaulitanus