Theatre — Tosca

Love, death and snazzy tux

Or just a pair of jeans—a classy, action-packed night on the town

By Gray Chynoweth []

Forget the neck-and-neck race for President; the real political drama going on in New Hampshire this weekend is at the Palace Theatre (, 603-668-5588), where ticket holders will see a political prisoner tortured and then shot to death while his lover tries to use her stunning beauty and sharp knife to set him free.

On Friday night at 8:00 pm the Dicapo Theatre of New York will perform Tosca, the intensely dramatic and fast-paced opera by Giacomo Puccini.

When most Gen-Xers hear the word “opera,” visions of grandparents in tuxedos and gowns pop into their heads. But Peter Furlong (pictured below in a 2001 performance), one of the starring singers in Friday’s show, does not think that is what opera, and especially Tosca, is all about.

“Opera isn’t about old married couples sitting down in their rocking chairs having a quite conversation,” said Furlong, “Tosca is about passion, it’s about love, it’s about hate, it is about a corrupt political system, it’s about all the passions of life.” Additionally, Furlong, a 35-year-old who played in a punk/new-wave band in high school, sees opera as appealing because “it has got everything that you see in TV, in movies, and on the stage, the only difference is that in opera you have all these arts mixed into this one thing, this one medium.”

In addition to bringing productions to town that cast young opera singers and focus on young characters, the event’s sponsor, Opera NH ( is doing other things to make opera more accessible to younger generations. No longer are gowns and formal wear required; as Executive Director Lara McGuire explained, “You find people in tuxes but you also find people in jeans; we want everyone to come and enjoy, no matter what they are wearing.” Opera NH has also tried to keep prices within the student and young professional budget. A ticket to the Palace performance will only cost you $35 and given the Palace’s size, even the less expensive seats are still close. If you have a student ID, you can get “student rush” tickets starting 30 minutes before curtain for $5.

 According to Tosca’s director, Michael Capasso, the price of admission should certainly be worth it. “Tosca is perhaps the greatest opera ever written, and Puccini, of all the composers, is clearly the best composer for an introduction to opera,” said Capasso. “There is not a moment wasted, you don’t have the endless arias like there are in older operas, every word progresses the drama.”  The storyline of the opera is that of a political rebel, Mario, who is caught and tortured by a corrupt police chief, Scarpia, for having helped one of his fellow partisans escape jail. In addition to his political vendetta, Scarpia wants to use his power over Mario to force his affections on Mario’s lover, Tosca. Tosca eventually agrees to give in to Scarpia to help Mario, but a double-cross and two murders wreak havoc on everyone’s plans.

In order to bring the passions of Tosca’s plot to life and give the New Hampshire audience a flavor of world-class operatic talent, Opera NH has brought in a director and cast that have won accolades and performed the world over. The Italian government recently gave Director Michael Capasso the Leonardo Di Vinci Award for cultural achievement. The singer who plays Tosca, Susan Foster, has performed with the New York City Opera and the Vancouver Opera, and will begin rehearsal with the Los Angeles Opera at the beginning of next week. Peter Furlong, who plays Mario, has performed in operas across Europe, including Italy, Ireland, and Germany, and is on a just-released CD of opera giant Malher’s work Die Dreipintos.

In addition to the chance to take in world-class talent, the event is also a chance to experience one of Manchester’s most revered artistic venues, the Palace Theatre, which opened in 1915.  According to Michael Capasso, the restoration efforts were worth it: “Opera NH has the great benefit of a very, very beautiful and wonderfully intimate theater.”

Insider Tips

Where to eat: Piccola Italia, a strong supporter of Opera NH, often feeds the cast and crew for their post-performance feast. Show up at the right time and you might see the stars.

What to compliment: “Arias,” the long solos that opera is famous for. They are often used to express intense emotion and display the beauty and power of the singer’s voice.

When to use the restroom:  The running time of Tosca is about two hours and 45 minutes, but the two intermissions, between acts I and II, and acts II and III, give you plenty of time to check out the bathroom acoustics by humming the tunes you just heard.

—Gray Chynoweth

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