Scottish Opera’s Tosca: Robert Poulton reveals joy at being ‘as nasty as you like’ as villain Scarpia

One of Scottish Opera’s most popular productions, Tosca returns to the Scottish stage start at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow tonight.

The production of the crowd-pleasing Puccini classic was first seen in 1980, and has since been enjoyed by audiences around the world, having been “borrowed” by opera houses as far afield as America, New Zealand and Spain.

One of its stars, Robert Poulton, talked to us during rehearsals about what those new to the opera can expect.

The baritone told us: “Scarpia is the arch-baddie, probably one of the greatest villains of all opera.

“He’s fantastic, and he’s a very nasty guy. He’s the chief of police, who is the henchman really to Mussolini in this production, an agent of the state.

“His plan is to seduce Tosca, or to do far worse than that – to ravage Tosca and to kill her lover Cavaradossi, who he views as a traitor and a rebel.”

He’s relishing the role, and said: “It’s just great fun to play something like that and to come away from it – you can be as nasty as you like while you’re up there, and then it’s done.”

However, Robert stresses that there’s more layers to Scarpia: “Puccini writes the character so well, so you have wonderful music to sing, and a whole range of colours that you can draw on.

“He can be oily, he can be bullying, he can be quite charming in a very unpleasant way. All of that is really fantastic.

“Particularly in act two – where Susannah and I have this big confrontation – it’s wonderful to play, and we really enjoy that.”

Of working with Susannah Glanville, who plays Tosca, Robert said: “She’s a real singing actress.

“She really looks for the drama in the part as well as just thinking about the singing and the voice, so that means that we can get some good dramatic tension going and some fireworks – we can play off of each other.”

Tosca is on in Glasgow until Saturday 12 May, when it moves on to Inverness and then Edinburgh and Aberdeen. For show details and ticket information visit Scottish Opera's website.

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