A drag queen friend of La Cieca’s — long before she was La Cieca — used to have an expression she to describe the terminally inept. The queen would say, “That guy could screw up a blowjob.” By which she meant, of course, receiving a blowjob, i.e., just sitting there, or standing there or whatever.
And so it seems to be with Houston Grand Opera’s new production of the supposedly idiot-proof Tosca, as devised and executed by the All Albion All the Time team of John Caird and Bunny Christie.
According to critic William Albright:
For some reason there are gaping holes in the ceiling of all three… sets (a church, a room in a palace, a prison). Baron Scarpia seems to live or office in a storeroom piled high with wooden crates and augment his police chief’s salary by dealing in black market art objects and cases of wine. Caird’s Tosca doesn’t dramatically leap to her death from the prison roof, she stabs herself in the throat like Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, staggers a bit, and tumbles backward out an open window.
And every now and then a ghostly, barefoot little girl dressed in white appears onstage, apparently to symbolize death, fate, or something. Mostly she just seems to have wandered in from The Lovely Bones.
And pity poor Patricia Racette, whose role debut as Tosca was costumed in “a woefully drab gray ball gown with a huge caboose-like ruffle on the rump.”
Why, La Cieca asks, was the need felt to import a British team when there is an abundance of American directors who could have done just as lousy a job? Where, for example, were James Robinson and Mark Lamos?