The Kiss of Tosca


MORE THAN MUSICAL, LTD., HONG KONG (2018)
World Premiere adaptation/orchestration

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photos courtesy of Chi Wai

THE KISS OF TOSCA, adaptation by N. Muni based on Tosca by Giacomo Puccini
Conductor/Pianist: Wei-En Hsu
Cast: Ho K., Kang C., Yun Soo J., S. Gordon, Chan B. (cello), Lau R. (percussion)
Production: N. Muni (scenery, clothes, projections, lighting)

MORE THAN MUSICAL’s production The Kiss of Tosca could not have made its concept any clearer. Hong Kong’s fledgling chamber opera company has learnt a key lesson since its first outing with La traviata; the added “kiss” warned audiences not to expect pure Puccini but rather a theatricalized experience. The director Nicholas Muni’s 75-minute reduction compressed several minor roles, from Angelotti to Scarpia’s henchmen into a single entity identified only as The Monk, a hooded figure recalling Death in Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal”.

Re-assigning the Shepherd Boy’s aria ­ to Tosca herself referenced Sardou’s original play, where Tosca was discovered as a singer while tending sheep. Elsewhere, any sacrifice in operatic grandeur was compensated for by theatrical immediacy. High-definition projections provided the story’s three iconic settings.

Lacking a dinner setting, Tosca stabbed Scarpia with her hairpin. Lacking a proper firing squad, Cavaradossi was executed by a throat slash. With the platform only a few inches from the ground, Tosca’s suicide leap gave way to a brutal neck twist. Other directors playing fast and loose with the story’s iconic deaths – most notably Christopher Alden for Opera North – generally clash with Puccini’ s score. By contrast, Hsu’s pit trio was harnessed smoothly to Muni’s concept. This “Kiss of Tosca” was hardly shabby; in fact, it proved that the story still has a few shocks left.
– Peter Gordon, London Opera (January, 2019)

“‘A 90-MINUTE ADAPTATION OF PUCCINI’S EXPLOSIVE OPERA‘, was how this abridged version of Tosca was marketed by More Than Musical. How does one edit a perfect opera down to a cast of four and still maintain the essence of the work?

The result was way more than I expected. Director Nicholas Muni created a thoughtful and respectful option. He made up an omnipresent Monk, that basically played various roles from Angelotti to Sacristan, from police agent to jailer. Then the aria “Vissi d’arte” came in really early when Tosca visited Cavaradossi in the church. At this point, I was screaming inside, “No!!! You can’t do that! The placing of the aria was perfect in the original setting – right before Tosca stabs Scarpia!!!” But then, the brilliance of the re-visioning started to come through. “Vissi d’arte” was reprised with a new intensity and suddenly the juxtaposition of the same aria in two scenes made sense. There are a lot of good surprises in this version. The challenge was met creatively and with artistic integrity.
– Satoshi Kyo, Life, Arts and Culture (October, 2018)

More Than Musical’s most recent production is more than reduced and abridged for a smaller cast and orchestra – but altered and rearranged. Muni cut the work to the three leads – the painter Cavaradossi, the evil Baron Scarpia and the diva Tosca herself-with all the other, smaller parts in the original combined together in a Da Vinci Code-like character called “The Monk”. The orchestra was paired to a pianist, a cellist and a very effective percussionist.

Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention, and there were moments of brilliance; the net result has an esthetic that strikes me as being as much theatre as opera. By paring the opera back, and performing in a venue where the audience is (literally) in spitting distance of the performers, one perhaps inevitably ends up relying once again on theatrical strengths rather those traditionally associated with opera. In this, its second outing, More Than Musical remains an interesting company.
– Peter Gordon, Asian Review of Books (October, 2018)

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