×

Tosca: A Tale of Love and Torture

There's almost as much drama offstage as on in this fascinating insight into the staging of an opera at Sydney's famed Opera House. Even those who aren't opera lovers will likely find "Tosca: A Tale of Love and Torture" riveting stuff. Handsomely produced behind-the-scenes document should prove a top-rater on quality TV networks.

There’s almost as much drama offstage as on in this fascinating insight into the staging of an opera at Sydney’s famed Opera House. Even those who aren’t opera lovers will likely find “Tosca: A Tale of Love and Torture” riveting stuff. Handsomely produced behind-the-scenes document should prove a top-rater on quality TV networks. A long life on video is also indicated, as well as beaucoup festival bookings.

The film crew was given seemingly unlimited access to the artists, not only unflinchingly filming the ups and downs of the rehearsals but also visiting some of the principals in their homes and outside the confines of the theater. A sequence in which the camera records a tremendous clash of egos is powerfully stuff.

At the outset, titles advise that whenever Puccini’s tragic “Tosca” is staged by Opera Australia, it’s a sure-fire box office winner. In 1999, a new production, in Italian, is arranged to star diva Joan Carden, who has played Tosca many times; newcomer Greg Tomlinson, a tenor who has never sung the role of hero Mario Cavaradossi before; and Ian Vayne, who has performed the villainous Baron Scarpia part only in German.

But budgets have been tightened in recent years, and only three weeks has been allowed for rehearsal at the opera company’s inner-city headquarters. Supervised by Scottish conductor Roderick Brydon and rehearsal director Cathy Dadd (a very Aussie, down-to-earth character) and under the watchful eye of Italian coach Renato Fresia, the rehearsals begin under great pressure.

Viewed from this backstage perspective, and without makeup, the age difference between Carden, who is only too aware that her career is coming to an end, and her young co-stars is even more pronounced. Evident, too, is the simple lack of enough time to get it all together; this will definitely be an under-rehearsed production.

Tensions among members of the company come to a head at the piano dress rehearsal in the Opera House. Called to the stage from her dressing room, Carden finds herself in an elevator with a stagehand heading down to the basement instead of up to the stage; she misses her cue, triggering an explosion of pent-up frustration from her collaborators. When Brydon wants the theater cleared of observers and refuses to make an exception for an associate of Carden’s, the diva stalks angrily from the stage. It’s a wonderfully spontaneous moment of high drama.

One of the most interesting revelations for the non-aficionado is that the ebullient Dadd, who works tirelessly as director in the early stages, is not allowed, apparently by tradition, to assume this role once the company reaches the point of dress rehearsal; then conductor Brydon takes over, doubling as director. It certainly seems a strange way to handle the staging of a large-scale opera.

Documaker Trevor Graham and his team have seized every opportunity afforded them to give the viewer an intimate view of the proceedings. Camerawork and sound recording are first class, with solid work, too, from editor Denise Haslem , who has assembled a fast-moving drama from what was presumably a mountain of material. A 55-minute TV version is also available.

Popular on Variety

Tosca: A Tale of Love and Torture

Australia

Production: A Film Australia presentation in association with the Australian Broadcasting Corp. (International sales: Film Australia, Sydney.) Produced by Patricia Lovell. Executive producer, Mark Hamlyn. Directed by Trevor Graham. Screenplay, Graham, Rosemary Hesp.

Crew: Camera (color), John Witteron; second camera, Robert Humphries; editor, Denise Haslem; music, Giacomo Puccini; sound, Sam Petty, Bronwyn Murphy; line producer, Hesp; associate producer, William Sheehan. Reviewed at Sydney Film Festival, June 17, 2000. Running time: 86 MIN.

More Film

  • 'Talking About Trees' Helmer Suhaib Gasmelbari

    'Talking About Trees' Director Suhaib Gasmelbari Receives Variety MENA Award

    Suhaib Gasmelbari, whose Sudanese documentary “Talking About Trees” premiered in the Berlinale’s Panorama section, received the Variety Middle East and North Africa Region Talent Award Saturday at the El Gouna Film Festival in Egypt from festival director Intishal Al Timimi. Variety critic Jay Weissberg, who selected the honoree, said that it is not usual that [...]

  • Josefina-Molina

    Josefina Molina: Still Battling After All These Years

    SAN SEBASTIAN  — She isn’t done yet. The battling character of Josefina Molina, winner of Spain’s 2019 National Cinematography Prize, was glimpsed in her acceptance speech at the San Sebastian Festival on Saturday. She used part to thank those who had given crucial help, such as, among women, editors Nieves Martin (1981’s “Función de Noche,” [...]

  • Suro

    Lastor, ‘The Endless Trench’s’ Irusoin, Malmo Team for Mikel Gurrea’s ‘Suro’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    SAN SEBASTIAN – Barcelona-based Lastor Media and Malmo Pictures have teamed with San Sebastian’s Irusoin to produce “Suro” (The Cork), the feature debut of Mikel Gurrea and a product of San Sebastian’s Ikusmira Berriak program. The film stars Laia Costa, who broke through with Sebastian Schipper’s “Victoria” and also serves as executive producer, and Pol López [...]

  • Ane

    Madrid’s ECAM Incubator Develops Terrorism Drama 'Ane'

    SAN SEBASTIAN — For the second year in a row, the ECAM Madrid Film School has paired a number of up-and-coming filmmakers with various industry veterans for an Incubator program part of the school broader development arm called The Screen. For its initial edition in 2018, this Incubator selected five feature projects, putting the selected [...]

  • Roma Cinematography

    'Mission: Impossible - Fallout' and 'Roma' Win LMGI Awards for Motion Pictures

    Two major 2018 releases – actioner “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” and critics’ darling “Roma” – were honored for film location work by the Location Managers Guild International at a ceremony this evening at the Eli & Edythe Broad Stage in Santa Monica. The 6th Annual LMGI Awards also recognized “Chernobyl” and “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” [...]

  • Soho House

    Soho House Lands In Downtown Los Angeles

    Warner Music, Spotify and Lyft are poised to welcome a new neighbor to downtown Los Angeles’ Arts District with Soho Warehouse, the third California outpost of the Hollywood-loved members-only club — and the largest North American opening to date. Hot on the heels of the Soho House Hong Kong debut earlier this summer, the private [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content