Our Teesside performers were inspired by Opera North's Tosca

Jonathan, one of our performers from Teesside, writes with help from support worker Charlie about the group's experience watching Opera North's production of Tosca at Leeds Grand Theatre:

28 of us travelled from Middlesbrough to Leeds, all excited and stocked up with sandwiches and crisps. For some of us it was our first trip to an opera and one participant commented that he was ticking something off his bucket-list. The theatre is stunning, much bigger inside than it seems outside. It is like a tardis and easy to get lost in the corridors. But we found our seats way up in the Gods and waited in anticipation for the start.

The first act was amazing. There was a real impact at the end of the first act when ‘Va, Tosca’ was sung. A tear ran down my eye. It was really dramatic and the orchestra was really intense. Dave, our workshop leader, said that Puccini uses climactic third act music in the first act and it certainly felt like that.

Other participants really liked it when Tosca sang ‘Vissi d'arte’ in the second act, finding it very moving. One said: “it touched on my own personal experience, and showed me I can bring out my own emotions and put them into our performance.”

The only bit I didn’t like were the gunshots. They were really loud and they hurt my ears.

I was intrigued by the structure of the stage. The elevation of the stage and the orchestra below the stage worried me, I thought that the actors would really hurt themselves if they fell off, but luckily none of them did. When you really focus you realise that they’re human but it’s scary how much effort they’ve put in they’re almost perfect. They’re very human but in a perfect way.

It was very beautiful with all the lighting on the set. I liked the bright vivid colours, it created lots of atmosphere especially with all the candles. There was a painting of the Madonna that was on stage all the time, but moved and became the window that Tosca jumped from. Cavaradossi painted a fragment with gold leaf that then fitted into the painting.

I had a lovely conversation with an audience member about how I was struggling to keep track with the story and he spoke about how he didn’t worry, he just enjoyed the beauty of the music and the setting. He bolstered my confidence that I don’t need to worry about enjoying Opera in the ‘right way.’

One of the MAP participants said he couldn’t believe how modern the themes of Tosca seemed and couldn’t believe how old it was. We felt the modern setting was really exciting and liked Scarpia’s use of a laptop to creepily watch people.

It has given us lots of ideas for our own production of Tosca. It was great comparing this production to the one we’re working on and recognising the bits we’ve been singing.

I am really looking forward to going to the opera again, but I am going to watch out for gunshots!