It seems fitting that Angela Brown is finally getting to play one of her favorite roles in her hometown.
“Honestly, I don’t know exactly how many times because I have sung full productions and concert versions of ‘Tosca’ in several places in the United States and Europe, but never in Indiana,” Brown said of the times she has been in “Tosca.” “That I get to sing my favorite opera and title role for my hometown audience, fans, family and friends is exciting, to say the least. After (the) COVID (pandemic) and lockdown, it is nice to finally get back to some kind of normalcy.”
Brown, an Indianapolis resident, will perform in the title role of “Tosca” Nov. 11-13 in the Indianapolis Opera’s production at The Tarkington at the Center of the Performing Arts in Carmel. The opera is set during the French Revolutionary Wars (1792-1802).
“‘Tosca’ is one of my favorite operas because she is a complex woman,” Brown said. “She is jealous, hopeful, in love, vindictive, courageous, brave and impulsive. It’s wonderful to be able to peel the onion of her madness all evening, not to mention the gorgeous music of (Giacomo) Puccini that I get to sing.”
Brown said it’s one of the more challenging operas for sopranos.
“The soprano uses the full range of her voice as well as the range of her emotions,” Brown said. “You have to be smart to sing ‘Tosca.’ You could ‘blow your wad’ in the second act if you are not careful. At that point in the opera, Tosca has been beaten down to the point that she is praying and begging God. To be able to rally yourself after all the emotional turmoil she is expressing right before the signature aria, ‘Vissi d’arte,’ takes a smart singer. And I hope I fill the bill.”
Brown will work for the first time with Metropolitan Opera tenor Gregory Turay and director James Marvel. Turay plays rebellious painter Cavaradossi.
“This is exciting for me because Gregory and I competed in the Metropolitan Opera competition together and we have known each other for many years,” Brown said. “I look forward to being his Tosca and to working with James Marvel for the first time, too.”
This is Marvel’s first time directing at Indianapolis Opera. He has directed many times at Indiana University.
However, Marvel, who is the director of the opera program at the University of Tennessee, said when Indianapolis Opera General Director David Starkey was at Asheville (N.C.) Lyric Opera, he did three or four shows.
“We’ve known each other for a couple of decades now,” said Marvel, who also runs an agency for other directors, conductors and designers.
Marvel has directed “Tosca” at least five times.
“It’s one of my very favorites,” said Marvel, who directed “Tosca” for Opera Carolina Oct. 13-16 in Charlotte, N.C. “I think it’s the most perfectly constructed opera both dramatically and musically that has ever been written. If you were to say to me, you can only direct one act of any opera for the rest of your life, it would be Act 2 of ‘Tosca.’ If you were to say you can only direct two acts, it would be Acts 1 and 2 of ‘Tosca.’ I literally think it’s genius, it’s brilliant.”
Marvel said he has been aware of Brown’s work for several years.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to work with her for a good while,” Marvel said.
Marvel said the key is being flexible and to work with the people in the room.
“If someone has a different interpretation of the character than you have, you can have conversations about it,” Marvel said. “Ultimately, your dedication has to be having the best show possible, not to having my show. It’s the performers’ ‘Tosca.’ The most challenging thing is the timing about what you do with the soldiers at the top of Act 3. Finding the right choreography with the soldiers and the changing of the guard and training them to walk as soldiers takes time. Every set is different.”
The performances are at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 11-12 and 3 p.m. Nov. 13.
For more, visit indyopera.org.