Tosca, Grand Theatre, Leeds
Making a new staging of Puccini's operatic standard fresh and relevant is never easy, but Opera North pull it off in style.
This dark, melodramatic thriller encompasses civil war, political intrigue and sexual blackmail, so it scarcely lacks modern parallels (and Edward Dick's production predictably has a walk-on part for Donald Trump).
But it also projects both the storyline and the wonderful score simply and powerfully, without losing its focus behind a smokescreen of references from today's news bulletins.
The result is a gripping piece of musical theatre held together by strong performances in the three central roles - Rafael Rojas as the tortured political dissident Cavaradossi, Robert Hayward as the cruel and predatory chief of police and - caught fatefully between the two of them - Giselle Allen in the title role.
The staging is transparent and fast-paced and designer Tom Scutt uses the effective motif of a cathedral dome to bind the three acts together. The singing is uniformly excellent and the orchestra, under Antony Hermus, teases every note of drama and pathos from Puccini's score.
- Philip Andrews