Puccini’s classic thriller Tosca is one of the great evenings of opera, and from its strident opening chords conjures up a world of political instability and menace. Director Jonathan Kent’s production for The Royal Opera, to be recorded live in 2018, captures the dangerous political turbulence of Rome in 1800. The story follows painter Mario Cavaradossi (tenor Joseph Calleja) who is captured and sentenced to death by Scarpia (bass-baritone Gerald Finley), the sadistic Chief of Police. Mario’s life can be saved and his freedom granted, providing his lover Tosca (soprano Adrianne Pieczonka), give herself to Scarpia. The idealistic lovers Tosca and Cavaradossi express their passion in sublime arias, including “Vissi d’arte” and “E lucevan le stele.” Giacomo Puccini’s dramatic work was a hit with audiences on its 1900 premiere and it remains one of the most performed of all operas—with its gripping plot and glorious music, it’s easy to see why. A candle-lit church, Scarpia’s gloomy study with its hidden torture chamber and the false optimism of a Roman dawn: this handsome production throws into relief the ruthlessly taut drama, as the tension is wound up towards a fateful conclusion. Puccini’s meticulously researched score is infused with the same authentic detail, from distant cannon fire during the Act I Te Deum to tolling church bells and the sounds of a firing squad. Sung in Italian with English subtitles.