OPERA North’s production of Tosca held an audience at Newcastle’s Theatre Royal captivated from moment the dramatic opening chords heralded the escape of Angelotti, slithering down a rope on to the stage, to the prima donna’s death leap.

Directed by Edward Dick, the story of lust and love, cruelty and self-sacrifice was delivered with penache and acted out on Tom Scutt’s inspired set – a large gilded copula suspended high for the church and later forming an atmospheric backdrop for Cavaradossi’s execution.

The topical subject the abuse of power that sparked the #MeToo movement was personified by Robert Hayward’s corrupt police chief Scarpia. His musings in Ha Piu Forte Sapore, include the line For myself the violent conquest has stronger relish that soft surrender.

Dressed in a silk dressing gown in Act Two, his smooth-talking blandishments soon turning menacing and he forces Tosca to watch her lover’s torture on a webcam. Scarpia, of course, gets his bloody comeuppance.

Susannah Glanville who played title role on the opening night was for her part brilliant, singing with visceral power across the emotional range, from smouldering jealousy to palpable pain. Her facility for supreme sensitivity was conveyed in a delicate delivery of her despairing Vissi d arte.

Glanville was was well-matched with Rafael Rojas’ artist Cavaradossi. His soaring rendition of Recondita armonia and E lucevan le stella were some of the evening’s musical highlights, along with the chorus’ spine-tingling Te Deum.

Conductor Jonathan Santagada did full justice to the ebb and flow of Puccini’s lavish score.

Gavin Engelbrecht