Love in the age of Puccini and Instagram: 5 reasons to see Dayton Opera’s ‘Tosca’ at the Schuster Center

Credit: Dayton Performing Arts Alliance

Credit: Dayton Performing Arts Alliance

Giacomo Puccini’s grand, glorious and melodramatic masterpiece “Tosca” will be presented by Dayton Opera April 20 and 21 at the Schuster Center.

Staged by Dayton Opera Artistic Director Kathleen Clawson with music direction by Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra Artistic Director and Conductor Neal Gittleman, “Tosca” has been a popular staple in the operatic canon since its Rome premiere in 1900. Set in the 19th century, the story spotlights the emotional triangle between prima donna Floria Tosca, her lover Mario Cavaradossi, and sadistic police chief Baron Scarpia.

Here are five reasons to see Puccini’s legendary tale of love and jealously wrapped within relevant themes of political unrest and abuse of power.



1. She’s a diva – best believe her

Having received accolades at the 2023 World Opera Competition Operalia, soprano Caitlin Gotimer makes her Dayton Opera debut as the titular, volatile diva. She says her family background and personal similarities fashion her portrayal.

“I come from an Italian upbringing – I have lots of feisty women in my family – and I also connect with Tosca (due) to having a diva, feisty, jealous and flirtatious streak in me,” said Gotimer, who recently performed the role at Palm Beach Opera. “There is a scene where Cavaradossi is painting a woman who looks nothing like (Tosca) and she gets very jealous and asks him who she is. To me, the modern day version is ‘Who is this girl you’re following on Instagram?,’ which is a conversation I’ve had many times before. This is a larger-than-life story but there are so many parts that ring very true and are relatable today.”

2. A dramatic story told in real time

The three-act story takes place in Rome on the morning of June 17, 1800, through dawn the following day.

‘It’s ‘24′ set to music,” said Gittleman. “You have the feeling you are seeing events happen exactly as they’re happening, which gives the opera an immediacy in both the music and the way we work as collaborative artists. We’re creating the dramatic tension together, which makes this opera satisfying in a deeper way than (others). There’s less conventional stuff in ‘Tosca.’ You don’t have to suspend your disbelief as much because it really feels like you’re spying on these real events, which gives this opera a special sense of excitement.”



3. A confidently manipulative villain

Grammy and Emmy Award-winning baritone Reginald Smith Jr. portrays the sinister Baron Scarpia who lusts after Tosca. Once he learns of Cavaradossi’s political ties, he ultimately manipulates Tosca with an unthinkable proposition.

“Scarpia is the ultimate bad guy,” Smith said. “He’s so enthralled and enticed by every single thing Tosca does that he wants her to give in. And the more uncomfortable she is, the more arousing it is for him. He lurks after the prey.”

4. Gorgeous sets and costumes

Designed by Ercole Sormani—the former head of the famous scenic design studio in Milan—and restored by the Seattle Opera, the sets are exquisite depictions of Roman landmarks: the church Sant’Andrea della Valle, Palazzo Farnese (the Farnese palace), and Castel Sant’Angelo. The costumes are by Susan Memmott Alred from the Utah Opera, who designed them specifically to complement the Sormani sets.

“This set is especially gorgeous,” Clawson said. “It looks so realistic. It really is fantastic. I love new (operas) but I also love to pay homage to the past, and ‘Tosca’ is such a perfect piece just as it is.”

Tenor Zach Borichevsky, who portrays Cavaradossi, a painter and republican, also shared his admiration for the piece.

“To me opera in general, and this opera specifically, it speaks to a visceral truth that cannot be conveyed any other way,” he said.

Having recently appeared with Aspen Music Festival, Finnish National Opera and the Glyndebourne Festival among others, he’s excited to finally perform one of his dream roles.

“(Performing) opera is an athletic achievement we have to train for (in order) to express an artistic idea,” Borichevsky said. “It’s fun to watch.”



5. A dazzling spectacle

Gittleman also praised Puccini’s score, which fuels the drama in captivating ways.

“It’s extraordinary music,” he said. “For me, what makes ‘Tosca’ so special is its real, palpable and dramatic aspects. I was a drama nerd in high school. So, one reason I like doing opera is that it combines those two elements.”

Clawson echoed his sentiments.

“All three characters are very well drawn out,” she said. “Everybody gets to develop their character through the music. These three spectacular singers, all making Dayton Opera debuts, have everything it takes to draw you in to Puccini’s exciting story. Adding to that, the costumes are sumptuous, and the sets are so realistically painted, you feel as though you are there. It’s all the spectacle one hopes for when going to see an opera.”




What: “Tosca”

Where: Schuster Center, 1 W. Second St., Dayton

When: April 20-21; 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday

Cost: $5-$149.50

Tickets: 937-228-3630 or

FYI: The opera will be performed in Italian with English supertitles above the stage.

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