Emily Wickwire – Chicago Tribune

Whether they are fighting evil forces, throwing off the yoke of oppression or, more often, embroiled in some love-inspired conflict, opera characters lead unusually dangerous lives. And, true to the drama inherent in the genre, they somehow always end up on the wrong side of a blade. From the bloodbath that is Bizet’s “Carmen” to the violence-happy “Porgy and Bess,” composers have shown that no production is truly complete without someone plunging a knife into someone else.

But when it comes to characters meeting surprisingly violent ends, the Lyric Opera’s current production of “Tosca” ranks up there with the bloody best. The performance — which kicks off with a new set of principal cast members, headlined by soprano Hui He in the title role, Friday — showcases its stomach-churning, feral violence in two major stabbing scenes: a climactic confrontation between lead character Floria Tosca (He) and her oppressor, Baron Scarpia (Mark Delavan), that ends in her knifing him in the back and rib cage, then finishing him off by slicing his throat, as well as Tosca’s own ill-fated end by way of a suicidal stab right to the jugular. In adapting such a crazed, psychological act for the opera, one might wonder: What goes into staging such a brutal act?

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