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Tosca premiered on January 14, 1900 at Teatro Costanzi, Rome.
Performed In Italian with English Titles.
The Action takes place on June 17, 1800. Each act of Tosca is set in an actual locale in Rome, and each site can be visited to this day.
The Church of Sant’Andrea della Valle. As the curtain rises on Puccini’s fifth opera, the orchestra introduces three of the most famous chords in all of music – the theme that represents Baron Scarpia. This is immediately followed by furious music, representing the exhausted Cesare Angelotti, consul of the fallen Roman Republic, escaping from Castel Sant’Angelo to the church of Sant’Andrea della Valle. Once Angelotti is hidden, the comic Sacristan enters, cleaning up the brushes left by the painter, Mario Cavaradossi. Cavaradossi enters and looking at the new painting of Mary Magdalene he is working on, compares his two beauties: The blue-eyed Magdalene he is painting to his beloved, dark-eyed Tosca. Angelotti enters, recognizes Cavaradossi as a friend, and gains his help in hiding from the police as Tosca approaches from outside. Tosca enters and she and her lover, Cavaradossi, arrange to meet that evening at his villa. Baron Scarpia, chief of police, arrives with his henchmen and searches for Angelotti. They question the Sacristan and suspect that Cavaradossi is hiding their escaped prisoner. When Tosca returns to the church to change the evening’s plans, Scarpia inflames her jealousy by using the fan of Angelotti’s sister, the Marchesa Attavanti, and claims that she is Cavaradossi’s lover. Her jealousy aroused, she vows to find the lovers at Mario’s villa – exactly where he is hiding Angelotti. The church fills with worshipers coming to offer the Te Deum.
A room in Palazzo Farnese. Scarpia waits for his henchmen, and for Tosca. He tells the audience he is driven by avarice, and an insatiable need to feed his lust and passions. Cavaradossi has been captured. When Tosca enters the scene, Scarpia tortures Cavaradossi to make his beloved reveal Angelotti’s hiding place. Tosca is faced with a choice – give into Scarpia’s lust for her, or watch the man she loves be executed. In the glowing aria Vissi d’arte, she asks God for His pity and help. Tosca takes a knife from Scarpia’s desk and at the very moment he approaches her to receive his prize, she kills him. She leaves the dead villain in his chambers as she makes her way to the prison in order to free Cavaradossi.
Castel Sant’Angelo. It is nearly dawn, Cavaradossi awaits his execution – his only thoughts are of Tosca. Tosca is allowed to see Cavaradossi. She shows him the document that will set them free – but explains that he must go through a mock execution first, so everyone believes he is dead. The two rejoice at this hope for a new life, far from the reaches of Rome. The execution takes place – but Scarpia has outwitted them – the execution is real. When the guards discover Scarpia’s body and corner Tosca, she climbs the parapet of the tower, and with the invective “Scarpia, we will meet before God” she hurls herself off the parapet to her death, as the curtain falls.
Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini was born in Lucca in Tuscany, Italy on December 22, 1858 into a family of five generations of church organists, choirmasters and composers. His father died when Giacomo was five years old, and he was sent to study with his uncle Fortunato Magi, who considered him to be a poor student. As a teenager, Puccini served as an organist to the area churches and played the piano as entertainment at social events. In March 1876, the twenty-year old walked thirty kilometers to attend a performance of Verdi’s latest opera success, Aida. This event changed his life and he decided that he would make opera his life’s work.
The greatest influence in Puccini’s life was his mother, who petitioned and received a grant to send her son to the Milan Conservatory, where he worked diligently at his music and received his diploma in 1883. While studying at the Conservatory, Puccini obtained a libretto from Ferdinando Fontana, and entered a competition for a one-act opera in 1882. Although he did not win, Le Villi was later staged in 1884 at the Teatro Dal Verme and it caught the attention of Giulio Ricordi, head of G. Ricordi & Co. music publishers, who commissioned a second opera, Edgar, in 1889.
Edgar failed: it was a bad story and Fontana's libretto was poor. This may have had an effect on Puccini's thinking because when he began his next opera, Manon Lescaut, he announced that he would write his own libretto so that "no fool of a librettist" could spoil it. Ricordi persuaded him to accept Leoncavallo as his librettist, but Puccini soon asked Ricordi to remove him from the project. Four other librettists were then involved with the opera, due mainly to Puccini constantly changing his mind about the structure of the piece. It was almost by accident that the final two, Illica and Giacosa, came together to complete the opera. They remained with Puccini for his next three operas and probably his greatest successes: La Bohème, Tosca and Madama Butterfly.
The rights to David Belasco’s play, Madame Butterfly were not immediately available to Puccini. Undaunted, he set his librettists to begin the script for the new opera based on the Century Magazine story. As a result, the first version of the new opera script focused on the East-West conflict as told through the story of an innocent geisha fallen victim to an imperialist American naval officer. Puccini instinctively knew that this direction was not the stuff of great theatre, and after months of heated arguments with Illica and Giacosa, they refocused the libretto on the personal tragedy of the main character – the work became intimate, moving, real – and in so doing, they created a lyric drama for the ages.
The 1904 premiere of Madama Butterfly at La Scala was a fiasco. The opera went through three revisions until it was successfully reintroduced in the form we know it today. Madama Butterfly is a complete realization of powerful psychological drama that fully reveals the moving character of the title character. It is no surprise that it was Puccini’s favorite from among his operas.
No Language Barrier!
Enjoy the beauty of the original language and understand it all with English translations. The English text is projected on a screen above the stage for each opera. Easy to follow, and easy to understand every twist and turn of the plot!