Central City Opera’s 2016 production of Tosca is a superbly innovative interpretation of Puccini’s beloved opera. Using video projections of real Roman locales, set designer Joachim Schamberger brings the audience under the rotunda of the church of Sant’Andrea della Valle in Act I, inside Palazzo Farnese in Act II, and outside of and then atop the parapet of Castel Sant’Angelo in the final act. The scenes are most effective in creating 1800s Rome where Tosca takes place.

“Scene projections create a sense of time and place,” said Pat Pearce, general and artistic director of Central City Opera.

“We are excited to add this new approach to our technical and artistic toolbox.”

The story of Tosca

Political intrigue, love, lust, torture, murder and suicide all within a period of 24 hours give Tosca all the elements of grand opera. The story revolves around the diva Floria Tosca who nearly succumbs to the lusty advances of the vicious police chief Baron Scarpia in order to save her lover, painter Mario Cavaradossi who helps a political prisoner escape.

The stars of Tosca

All three principals are outstanding, both in acting ability and singing. Soprano Alexandra Loutsion in her first Tosca role runs the gamut of emotion from flirtatious and jealous with her lover to fear and submission to Scarpia, then elation upon freeing Cavaradossi and, finally, despair.

She plays it very convincingly accompanied by a silvery voice, clear and strong. Her prayer “Vissi d’arte” (“I Lived for Art”) in Act II is emotionally stirring.

Charismatic Michael Mayes has found a signature role in his first Scarpia. He plays it to the hilt, enjoying every minute as a man who “wants to taste all of God’s creatures” (wine and women).

Mayes, who exploded onto the CCO stage as Joseph De Rocher in Dead Man Walking two years ago, is forceful and mean as the corrupt chief yet charming and cunning to Tosca. His deep baritone voice and physical presence present a chilling Scarpia, one of opera's worst villans. Puccini sums up the opera with Scarpia's words, “From such profound love comes profound misery.”

Jonathan Burton’s Cavaradossi is a kind, understanding lover to Tosca.

His resounding tenor is absolutely riveting. He brings chills in the first act aria “Recondita Armonia” (“Hidden Harmony”) and again as he is overcome with memories before his execution in Act III in the aria “E lucevan le Estelle” (“And the stars shone”).

Noticeably effective is musical conductor John Baril’s ability to sync the music with the singers. There is not a moment of discord in the entire opera.

Secondary stars

Bass-baritone Donald Hartmann adds humor to the role of the priest, and Stephen Clark is very good as Angelotti, the escaped prisoner. Peter Lake, Adam Richardson and Eric McConnell are fine as Scarpia's strong arms.

Where to see Tosca in Colorado

Tosca is another stellar performance audiences have come to expect in the jewel-box theatre in Central City 35 miles west of Denver. The company is the second oldest professional opera festival in the country at 84 years. Remaining performances are 2:30 p.m. July 30 and August 3, 5 and 7, 2016.