Q: You have adapted Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca to run for 90 minutes. Tell us about the adaptation.
Muni: We have shortened the opera in a way that retains the very essence of the narrative and the musical integrity of the original. First, we identified the core elements of the work, then we made technically informed and stylistically sensitive cuts. All our adaptations feature continuous music, the heart of story-telling in opera.
Three scenes will be presented without intermission. There are four singers, no chorus, and an accompanying ensemble of piano, cello and percussion. This intensely melodramatic opera is usually staged using a grandiose set, in which the events and emotions are presented theatrically as somewhat larger than life. But More Than Musical will stage this extreme piece in an intimate space, in which the acting and singing are experienced up close and personal, so that the performance makes much more impact on the audience. We are confident that our minimalistic interpretation of Tosca will enable the audience to feel this opera in a very different and much deeper way. Our title comes from Act II: at the point of stabbing Scarpia, Tosca exclaims, ‘Questo è il bacio di Tosca!’ (‘This is the kiss of Tosca!’).
Q: What is your concept for this adaptation?
A sketch of Tosca's traveling outfit
Muni: Puccini set the opera in Rome, during the Napoleonic Wars, a period of political upheaval in Europe following the French Revolution. In the new French Republic, revolutionaries pitted themselves against the aristocracy and the Catholic Church in seeking liberty and justice for all. Our production will be anchored in this historical context through the use of projected imagery, but it will have a distinctly contemporary visual aesthetic. Mario Cavaradossi is an artist, one of the French revolutionaries, who has temporarily forgotten his political activism because of his love for Floria Tosca, the most famous opera singer in the world. The cruel and sadistic Baron Scarpia has been brought in from Sicily to impose strict martial law in Rome. He is in hot pursuit of Cesare Angelotti, an escaped revolutionary, whom he suspects Cavaradossi to be harbouring. In essence, the story revolves around two artists who get drawn into a lethal confrontation with a sadist, his savage sexual desire for Tosca, and the complex reality of political warfare.
Q: How do you tell the story with only four characters?
Muni: The majority of the original opera is sung by the three leading characters who are featured in this adaptation, so for the most part the audience will be hearing the original. To bind everything together both musically and dramatically, we have created a new role, a mysterious demon-like Monk, who is an amalgam of a number of secondary characters including the Sacristan, Angelotti and Scarpia’s henchman, Spoletta.
Q: Is The Kiss of Tosca relevant to audiences in Hong Kong?
A sketch of Tosca's performance outfit for a gala concert
Muni: As in many works of art that are anchored in the context of the time in which they were created, it is the universal aspects that speak to us centuries later and across various cultures. In this case, what speaks to us is the deep bond of love between Cavaradossi and Tosca, in contrast to the sadistic savagery that Scarpia exhibits in trying to save his own life by re-capturing the fugitive Angelotti. In short, it is about the sheer violence to which human beings under intense pressure can resort; it highlights the contrast between true love and senseless brutality.