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Beloved opera ‘Tosca’ comes to life onstage at First Methodist Church in Elgin

Tetyana Torzhevska sings during a rehearsal for Tosca, an Italian opera on Wednesday, April 18, 2018 in West Dundee. The performance will be held Sunday, April 29 at First United Methodist Church in Elgin.
Tetyana Torzhevska sings during a rehearsal for Tosca, an Italian opera on Wednesday, April 18, 2018 in West Dundee. The performance will be held Sunday, April 29 at First United Methodist Church in Elgin.

It has been said that opera is a dying art, but Ukrainian soprano singer Tetyana Torzhevska, who lives in Huntley, couldn’t disagree more.

“People say that opera is dying. That’s not true,” Torzhevska said. “People just don’t have as much access to it. It’s like singing drama. When you’re singing, you can express yourself more than just through talking. If it is well done, it’s very exciting! Opera will live forever.”

Opera may stand the test of time, but the same cannot be said for the main characters of Giacomo Puccini’s “Tosca,” a three-act opera performed in Italian in which, well, everybody dies.

“Tosca” will be presented at 2 p.m. April 29 at The First Methodist Church in Elgin. 

The staged production will be performed with a reduced orchestra provided by Chamber Music on the Fox, under the direction of retired Lyric Opera of Chicago Maestro Philip Morehead.

The performance also will be under the artistic direction of Solange Sior, who also will serve as stage director. “Tosca” will be performed in Italian with projected English supertitles.

Sior chose “Tosca” for a very specific reason.

“Because I have the cast,” Sior said. “It’s very rare that you can have singers that can sing these parts. It’s very taxing you need that very powerful and very high voice. This is the hardest thing in the world to sing but Tetyana does it easily.”

The cast is led by tenor Simon Kyung Lee as Mario Cavaradossi, baritone William Powers as Baron Scarpia and Torzhevska as the soprano female lead, Floria Tosca.

The Huntley resident made her debut in 1989 at the State Opera Studio in Kiev as Parasya in Mussorgsky’s “Sorochintsy Fair”. She since performed throughout Europe with the Ukrainian National Opera, Army Opera Center (Kiev), State Operetta Theater (Kiev) and Lviv State Opera before moving to the United States in 2003 to marry and raise her daughter.

Torzhevska sang the role of Tosca twenty-five years ago and has high hopes for the performance her second time around.

“I think it will be better because I am much more experienced now,” Torzhevska said. “A voice is nice when it’s young but technique comes with experience. I have really good partners and I think it will be really exciting, for me it will be like going back in time.”

For Torzhevska, opera gives her the chance to be someone she’s not, to live another life.

“I love opera and this part is very dramatic. It’s very emotional,” Torzhevska said. “I love it much more than just a concert. When you are in the role, you can live another life. I’ve lived many lives. I can die on the stage. In life you can only die once. I like to live other lives. To be someone else.”

Torzhevska started teaching voice and piano for Sior in her home 12 years ago and has since moved to teaching in her own home. The two became fast friends. Sior is the Artistic Director for her not-for-profit Soiree Lyrique, is a fellow soprano singer and teaches music out of her home in West Dundee.

Sior has been building an audience for the past three years by doing outdoor concerts featuring excerpts of popular opera numbers as well as holding vocal competitions for young artists.

14-year-old soprano Blake Buczkiewicz is a student of Torzhevska’s and was Soirée Lyrique’s Young Vocal Artist 2017 Competition winner. He will play the role of “The Shepherd Boy” in Tosca as part of his reward for winning the competition.

Sior said that her younger students are very excited about opera and become hooked quite easily.

“I know opera isn’t always something that’s easy to sell. People think it’s boring,” Sior said. “I was 16 when I first saw this opera, and I cried. My stomach was in knots. It’s so strong and supported by the music and it’s so strong. For people who think they don’t like opera this would be a good one to try because I think it would change their mind.”

Tickets for the performance of “Tosca” are $25 each if purchased in advance through the box office at 847-622-9988 or office@soireelyrique.org or online at www.soireelyrique.org. Tickets can be purchased the day of at the door for $30. Students are $15 and children under the age of 6 are not permitted.

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