If one wants proof that music has the power to seduce, one need only turn to the works of Giacomo Puccini to be totally moonstruck. His music has uncanny powers of persuasion, even manipulation. With melodies that linger long in one’s memory, harmonies that challenge convention, and orchestration that envelops one in its sensuality; one is powerless to resist. When combined, these qualities weave a spider’s web of emotional entrapment. Do I feel that my senses are being manipulated? Yes. Do I mind? Not in the least. Tears still moisten these cynical eyes each time Tosca leaps off the parapet of Castel Sant’Angelo; or Liù plunges a dagger into her heaving breast.
For the production, a co-pro with Covent Garden, La Scala, the Met and the Dutch National Opera, Carsen has moved the action from 16th century England and the reign of Elizabeth I to the 1950s and the reign of Elizabeth II. And it’s a comfortable fit. This is no feeble-minded ”concept” production. It is well argued and thought through, drawing comparisons between, as Carsen writes, “the sunset of the aristocracy and the rise of the middle class” in both periods.