Tragedies are by definition dark works, driven by classical boundaries to deaths resulting from character flaws. Within the confines of the genre, the gloom of impending fate is deepened, and indeed thrives, on its contrast to the lofty motives that the hero or heroine originally intends.

In Opera Colorado's current production of Giacomo Puccini's Tosca, however, it is the saturnine elements that dominate almost entirely. Elizabeth Whitehouse, in the title role, and Julian Gavin, as her lover Cavaradossi, both fine voices, lack the power to overcome the Buell Theatre's notorious lack of natural amplification, thus allowing their passion to be overshadowed by Greer Grimsley's chillingly malevolent Scarpia.

Grimsley's acting, under the direction of Garnett Bruce, is a marvel of psychopathic manipulation, cruel one moment and tender the next, slowly working Tosca, his prey, into a corner. Elizabeth Whitehouse, though bridled at first, comes alive in Act II under Grimsley's pressure, marshalling her resources for the explosive murder of her tormenter.

Yet the drama fails to hold. In Act III, with Cavaradossi facing his execution, Gavin's love song is sublime, but some questionable staging detracts from his final duet with Tosca. Finally, the timing of the soldier's approach that drives Tosca to the parapet wall seems premature.

For an opera that is largely plot driven, Opera Colorado's Tosca, though well sung, lacks consistency. The final calls, inexplicably done in front of the curtain, underscore the production's musical and dramatic separation. The final performances are tonight and Sunday. 303-893-4100.


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