Welsh National Opera has a particularly good track record with Puccini, and its current production of Tosca, a joint one with South Australia State Opera first seen in 1992, succeeds purely through the clarity and commonsense of its staging, set firmly in its proper 1800 period.
Michael Blakemore directs his performers simply and straight-forwardly over Ashley Martin-Davis' three solid, naturalistically effective sets, and Mark Henderson lights them with brave juxtapositions of gloomy interiors and hints of dazzling sunshine outside. His building of the dawn in Act III hailing Cavaradossi's execution is patient and spectacular.
My only quibble with the production are two silly details which spoil the spine-tingling "Te Deum" which ends Act I. Puccini has a cardinal blessing the congregation: there is no need to get the cleric up in garb making him a cartoon version of our late Pope, nor to have a Republican beaten up by the carabinieri.
This temporarily distracts from the genuinely chilling presence of Peter Sidhom's Scarpia, this perverted chief of police almost psychopathically Iago-like in his manipulation of Tosca.
Deborah Riedel is impressive in the title role, distraught in characterisation but secure in delivery, genuine in her interaction with Geraint Dodd's Cavaradossi (by no means a disappointing replacement for the indisposed Dennis O'Neill), his voice well-supported and well-placed.
* Repeated tonight, possibly with the return of Dennis O'Neill (7.15pm, running-time 2 hours 45 minutes).