WESTFIELD, NJ — Everything seems ordinary for Floria Tosca until she becomes jealous of a blond-haired woman in a painting that her lover Mario Cavaradossi created.

Tosca questions Cavaradossi’s love for her. Although Cavaradossi says Tosca is the only one he loves, she isn’t quite convinced.

Then come more twists and turns in the couple’s lives, including a visit from one of Cavaradossi’s old friends who is on the run, and things might not be what they seem.

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“Her passion for performing, her sincerity and deeply rooted emotions connect with me on a personal level,” said soprano Jenny Schuler, who will be playing Tosca when the opera, written by Giacomo Puccini, is performed in Westfield and Madison later this month.

“Tosca is a deeply feeling person who passionately loves and wants to be loved,” said Schuler. “Tosca is pious, proud, confident, jealous and almost volatile at times; her ultimate driving forces are her faith and love for Cavaradossi.”

Schuler said she has been in love with this opera, which is filled with powerful moments and scenes with manipulation of power and seduction, since she first heard the music, and is excited to be playing the lead role.

The New Jersey Festival Orchestra will perform “Tosca” in Westfield on Feb. 23 and at Drew University in Madison on Feb. 24, as part of its annual tradition to play an opera every season.

Schuler is a young and upcoming star from Chicago. Kirk Dougherty will be Mario Cavaradossi. Todd Thomas will perform the part of Scarpia, a villainous and menacing police chief. Maria Todaro is the stage director and David Wroe is the Westfield-based orchestra’s music director and conductor.

“Who wouldn’t have a fun time with this story?” said Wroe.

He compared his roles as the music director and conductor to that of a traffic cop.

“I coordinate all the disparate forces on stage, all moving in different directions with their own parts and instructions,” Wroe said. “I am the ‘puppeteer’ who pulls the strings to make the wonderful moving parts of the famed opera move in synchronization.”

The New Jersey Festival Orchestra has performed “Tosca” only once since it was founded (originally as the Westfield Symphony) in 1984. This second performance will be fully staged with costumes and lights, according to Wroe. He said the performances spaces at The Presbyterian Church in Westfield and at Drew University are “small enough for the drama to be intense.”

“The in-your-face experiences will match the intensity of the story,” Wroe said.

Ray Catena of Union, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and Marty Given are sponsors of the performance.

If you go:

Saturday, Feb. 23
7:00 p.m. with a free pre-concert lecture by Michael Rosin at 6:00 p.m.
The Presbyterian Church, 140 Mountain Ave., Westfield

Sunday, Feb. 24
3:00 p.m.
The Concert Hall at Drew University, 36 Madison Ave., Madison, NJ 

Tickets: $30-$76. Students K-12: $15. College students (must show student ID): $20. To buy tickets: Visit www.njfestivalorchestra.org or call the box office at 908-232-9400.