Todd Thomas made his Florida Grand Opera in 2014 as evil villain Scarpia in "Tosca." Now, Thomas returns to reprise the role as FGO presents "Tosca" in Miami at the Adrienne Arsht Center Saturday, March 18, Sunday, March 19 and Tuesday, March 21, and in Fort Lauderdale at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts on Thursday, April 13 and Saturday, April 15.
Thomas was seen as "Rigoletto" last season at FGO. "I'm not sure which character wins out in the number of productions I've done," says Thomas. "But they are both pretty even. Last November, Thomas played Scarpia in Lynchburg, Va., at Opera on the James, in January portrayed the same character at Opera Memphis, and in July, will return to Virginia for “Tosca” at Charlottesville Opera.
Giacomo Puccini's tragic story of passion and jealousy tells the story of opera singer Floria Tosca, as she fights to save her artist-lover Cavaradossi from the sadistic police chief Scarpia, who lusts for Tosca. Scarpia proclaims that Cavaradossi assisted an escaped political prisoner and imprisons him in order to get his grips into Tosca. He tells Tosca that she can either give herself to him or he will have her lover killed.
Thomas knows Scarpia inside and out. "He's much more attracted to the violent conquest in life, capturing a prisoner or his love interest, Tosca."
Although he's performed the character – he tries to conjure how many performances exactly – "I've probably done 150 of them" – he says the character still comes to life each time in a different way.
"For one, there are the details that the people you are playing opposite of." For the FGO performances, soprano Toni Marie Palmertree makes her FGO as Tosca. "She's a different 'Tosca' then, say, Leah Hawkins, who was Tosca at Santa Fe Opera. You are fed by your scene partner as well as the director and the environment and the conductor who sets the pace of things," Thomas says. "There's a different theater you're in, it's a different way of telling the story."
The source material for the opera "Tosca" is from French playwright Victorien Sardou's 1887 play "La Tosca." Puccini's opera debuted in 1900. Sardou often based his characters on real people or composites of several. In the play, Baron Scarpia is described as hiding his merciless, cruel and lustful soul behind a façade of devotion and courtesy. He may have been conjured after Gherardo Curci, a commoner who rose to military prominence and was known for his unscrupulous dealings and a Sicilian judge named Vincenzo Speciale who oversaw the imprisonment, torture and humiliation of many of his victims with glee.
Thomas says his Scarpia is informed by a sensuality. He tells audiences to pay attention as his character smells the red wine when it is poured, as he takes in the fragrance of Tosca's perfume on her cape.
The other day in rehearsal, he says, director Jeffrey Marc Buchman told him that maybe he was going to deep into the sensual proclivity of the character. "He said to me, 'Todd, you're become Scarpia, the sniffer."
And that's the beauty, he says, of playing a character and being allowed to try so many things. "It's really never a problem to keep it fresh."
Florida Grand Opera’s “Tosca” is Saturday, March 18, Sunday, March 19 and Tuesday, March 21, at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., and also Thursday, April 13 and Saturday, April 15 and Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW 5th Ave., Fort Lauderdale.
Tickets are $16, $21, $29, $39, $44, $47, $51, $70, $73, $79, $85, $89, $101, $128, $138, $155, $164, $179, $200, $210, $230 and $255 depending on show and performance venue.
For information and 800-741-1010 or fgo.org