Michael Gieleta’s production of Tosca with sets designed by Gary McCann premiered last summer at the Opera Wrocławska, Wrocław, Poland. The designer brought to the stage a clash of architectural styles in a rebuilt Rome of the 1950s.
“Each act of Tosca,” says McCann. “is set in a very specific place in Rome: the church of Sant’Andrea Della Valle, Scarpia’s apartment within the Palazzo Farnese, the battlements of the Castel Sant’Angelo. The audience, therefore, has a set of expectations regarding the mise-en-scene.”
According to the designer, the intensity of the narrative and the compressed timeline of the story in Tosca do not offer much room to experiment. Therefore, the question for him was, “how to create a scenographic context for the opera that facilitates the numerous plot requirements while offering a fresh perspective?”
The solution that Gieleta and McCann arrived at was to update the action to an imaginary Rome around the late 1950s. “In the original plot, the city has been at war for several years before the action commences,” he says. “I imagined that Rome as we know it had been largely destroyed and rebuilt in a Brutalist architectural style. However, within the midcentury geometry, large elements of Baroque architecture have been salvaged and embedded within this new aesthetic.”
The result “is an interesting clash of styles; the ornamental grandeur of baroque altarpieces, frescoes, and a 6-meter high angel statue in direct contrast to the blank forbidding concrete walls and the vast 2-tonne Modernist crucifix which dominates the stage from above.”
“Each of the three sets was conceived in 360 degrees and was mounted on a 10 meter revolve. This allowed us to move around the sets in a filmic manner and reveal unexpected spaces, for instance, the torture chamber in which Cavaradossi is imprisoned,” McCann concludes.
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