Fringe Box



Stage Dragon Review: Tosca by Grange Park Opera ‘New and Heart-Stopping’

Published on: 13 Jun, 2023
Updated on: 13 Jun, 2023

By Alice Fowler

There are stirring, sensual operas – and then there is Tosca.

Tosca by Grange Park Opera. Tosca (Izabela Matula), Scarpia (Brett Polegato). Photos by Marc Brenner.

Puccini’s feast of jealousy, passion, torture, abusive power and lust has transfixed audiences since its first performance in Rome in 1900. For anyone with a love of opera and high drama, I can only say: head at speed to West Horsley Place for a new and heart-stopping Tosca, staged by Grange Park Opera.

The role of Tosca, a celebrated singer, is sung with high emotion by Izabela Matula, a Polish soprano making her Grange Park debut. Passionate and jealous, Tosca loves the painter Cavaradossi, sung by the Georgian tenor Otar Jorjikia (who presented the same role at La Scala, Milan, in his house debut).

Tosca by Grange Park Opera. Sacristan (Andrew Slater), Grange Park Opera Chorus. Photo by Marc Brenner.

Throw into the mix the infamous Scarpia, the brutal police chief who lusts after Tosca – Brett Polegato, making an accomplished debut in the role – and a repressive police state, and the scene is set for joy and heartbreak.

The Theatre in the Woods, built six years ago in the bucolic gardens of West Horsley Place, is an enchanting and intimate space to enjoy opera. It also enjoys excellent acoustics.

Sung in Italian with English subtitles above the stage, director Stephen Medcalf’s production is not only superbly sung but exceptionally well-acted.

Tosca by Grange Park Opera, An Officer (Tim Badley), Tosca (Izabela Matula), Spoletta (Robin Horgan), Cavaradossi (Otar Jorjikia), Grange Park Opera Chorus. Photo by Marc Brenner.

Jorjikia as Cavaradossi, facing execution, stares at the body of a man already despatched by the firing squad with an intensity that is painful to watch. Polegato as Scarpia brings disturbing menace to his scenes with Tosca: forcing us to reflect on a time when a woman’s only source of power was derived from her sexuality.

Who cannot be moved by Tosca’s plight, locked in a battle of wits with a psychopathic bully which we know she cannot win.

The BBC Concert Orchestra, led by Nathaniel Anderson-Frank and conducted by Mark Shanahan, plays with verve, poignancy and humour. The start of the third act, when the tempo steadies before the devastating denouement, shows this acclaimed orchestra at its best.

Children also join the cast from nearby Cranmore School and St Teresa’s School, Effingham. Designer Francis O’Connor’s set takes us from a Roman church where a political prisoner, Angelotti (Alan Ewing) is hiding; to Scarpia’s cold and imposing apartment at the Palazzo Farnese; and finally to the battlements of the Castel Sant’Angelo, where it seems – for a while – that Tosca and Cavaradossi’s desperate desire to be together may win through.

The scenes in Scarpia’s apartment, where the dastardly police chief manically carves a joint of beef while Cavaradossi is tortured in an adjoining room, reminds us of the show trials that still take place today.

It’s a relief, after an evening of highly charged drama, to step into the soothing orchards and gardens of West Horsley Place and drown sorrows in a glass of wine.

Tosca continues until Wednesday, July 5. You cvan book tickets online at

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