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Tosca Opera Loki - Jane Gray Interview

Since 2001, Opera Loki has been bringing operatic performances sung in English to regional communities within intimate settings. The company specialises in providing a much-needed platform for early career artists and gives the audience an exciting opportunity for audiences to see new talent up close. 

The company brings its latest production a 1920s spin on Puccini's classic Tosca which comes to Alton in Hampshire, Great Barfield in Essex and Chelsea in London. Ahead of the run, I spoke with artistic director Jane Gray.

Our talk began with discussing where the company began and delving more into Tosca. Jane explained "I set up Opera Loki in 2001 when a friend of a friend through a choir I sang in asked if I would be interested in putting on Marriage of Figaro at a house in France. Randomly I had just been in a tour l made up of Mozart opera arias with Bedfordshire Youth Opera and so we took this as a trial run - 21 years later we still go to the same house!"

"Way back then I was a music graduate but we have now morphed into an established albeit small company who focus on producing opera that not only gives performers a chance to perform a whole opera but also engage more people in watching it. This year’s production of Tosca is only our second opera in the original language as until now we had stuck with English to ensure accessibility for audiences. Our Tosca is a great production and I am so proud of our performers but also of my own creative involvement to bring out the emotional rawness and authenticity of the story in order to move our audience. It’s dramatic stuff: attempted rape, murder, suicide and a good dose of romance."

Bringing in a new audience is something that is clearly important to the ethos of Opera Loki. Jane explained how they go about engaging a new audience "The main thing is to evoke an emotional response through characterisation which is helped a lot by amazing music. If we have the hearts as well as minds of the audience we have engaged them."

Our talk turned to how do the company chose which opera they're going to stage. Jane told me "The show needs to be appropriate for a cast early in their careers and I was initially hesitant about Tosca as it’s known to be a ‘big sing’. However, with piano it enables a more gentle and totally tailored approach so is perhaps more supportive of singers. We also have to consider our French and UK audiences and what they will want to come and see."

The use of the talent is of great importance to the company. Jane said "The main thing is to support opera professionals taking the next step in their careers - this doesn’t only mean new talent but people who have had a career break or even just struggling for some reason. However, all our performers are aligned in that they have what we consider to be huge talent."

This production of Tosca is set in the 1920s. Jane explained to me the decision for this setting and how it impacts the piece "I often choose a new era to set opera in and for Tosca it was a practical issue of needing a setting with costumes that could be made easily whilst also having some sort of dictator or war in the background. Mussolini’s Italy seemed a good choice as the opera is in Italian and would retain a strong sense of its roots albeit 120 years later. The 20s has a strong visual aesthetic through costume that meant less effort needed on the set (always a consideration for a tour) but with a lovely line for Tosca’s outfits. However, the era had to work with the text so a little bit of rewording here and there to ensure Mussolini’s Italy was referenced."

Jane told me that an audience can expect "A few moments of humour, plenty of physicality, brilliant singing and amazing acting all adding up to a whirlwind of emotions for the audience to experience" from the production.

Tosca first premiered in 1900 in Rome. I asked Jane why she thought it remains popular "Because of the very emotional rawness I mentioned and plus some moments of sublime music when you realise that opera is a brilliant art form. There is no hiding in opera."

For an audience who has never seen Opera Jane hopes that people give Opera a chance, "Just give it a go - and once you try it, if you’re not sure, go to another one but by a totally different composer. Don’t fall at the first hurdle as it may take bit of time to work out what you like."

Our chat wrapped up with Jane explaining why any audience should come and see Tosca, "Because it’s awesome and you will feel enriched in every way from the experience."

Tosca by Opera Loki plays at Alton Maltings on September 9th, Great Lodge in Essex on October 15th and at Founders Hall in Chelsea on October 22nd. Details and booking can be found at

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