But with this year's production, the Festival outdid itself, visually and dramatically. "Did I tell you that the Bregenz Tosca is the best thing ever?" wrote our buddy-on-the-Bodensee. (All the reviews we've seen agree with him.)
He and his fellow audience members were thrilled by, among other things, the astonishing set dominated by a 100-foot-by-165-foot eyeball. That eye starts out as the painting Cavaradossi is working on; it folds out to become the chamber where Scarpia tries to seduce Tosca in Act II; the iris becomes a video screen in which we can see Tosca singing or Cavaradossi being tortured ... (Not to mention, of course, that it's an enormous visual metaphor for the power of Scarpia and his ubiquitous secret police before whom all Rome trembled.)
Our friend raved about the singing and the drama as well — pointing us, for instance, to the last of our pictures below: "you can see the knife still in Tosca's hand, and those blotches on the floor in the center of the photo are blood; it was a very, very, very bloody murder!"
Director Philipp Himmelmann's treatment of the ending, with Cavaradossi's execution and Tosca's leap to her death, was a double coup de th_ê¢tre: "She doesn't go into the lake, but he does, the corpse dropping several stories right into the Bodensee. 7,000 people gasped."
When Tosca takes her dive (ahem), our friend writes, "she steps behind the eye and the slo-mo takes over ... the final image [is] of Tosca falling and her scarf fluttering, shown in the video of the iris."
The photographs made available to the press didn't include either of those moments, unfortunately, but there are plenty of others to enjoy below. And, fortunately, the Bregenz Festival's stagings run for two seasons: Tosca returns to the Seeb‹hne from July 23 to August 23, 2008. To learn more, visit www.bregenzerfestspiele.com.
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Top photo below by andereart; all remaining photos by Bregenzer Festspiele / Karl Forster.