A Foxy Little Number

Sparks fly when husband and wife star in Puccini’s tale of jealousy, torture, and murder.

Mill City Opera in Puccini's Tosca
Michael Yeshion Photography

Mill City Summer Opera, now in its third season, has cast a husband-and-wife duo as two of the leads in Puccini’s Tosca. Both have wowed Mill City audiences in the past, but not in the same production.

Soprano Jill Gardner, who plays beautiful singer and jealous lover Floria Tosca, was Nedda in the opera’s inaugural production of I Pagliacci. Baritone Jake Gardner was Dr. Bartolo in last summer’s Barber of Seville. Now he’s playing Baron Scarpia, the barbarous head of the secret police who wants Tosca for himself. Tenor Adam Diegel rounds out the doomed triangle as Tosca’s lover, painter Mario Cavaradossi.

Generating the necessary heat between Scarpia and Tosca came relatively easy for the couple. “With our strong relationship, we can easily convey the sexual component,” says Jill Gardner. “We build an interesting relationship—it has a sensual, erotic component.”

But working with your spouse, you might say, is a double-edged sword.

“The hard part is that in acting, you use part of yourself,” Jake Gardner says. “My wife does not like the part of me that is in Scarpia—violent and controlling.” Luckily, in act two, she has operatic recourse. “I enjoy killing him—psychologically,” she says with a laugh. July 12–22.

Mill City Museum Ruin Courtyard, 704 S. 2nd St., Mpls., 612-341-7582,