When painter Cavaradossi aids an escaped prisoner, ruthless police chief Scarpia spies a chance to possess Cavaradossi’s lover, singer Floria Tosca. How far will she go to save her true love?
As authoritarian rule grips Rome and Napoleon invades Italy, a deadly lovers’ triangle takes shape.
Beloved but volatile opera singer Floria Tosca rages with jealousy when her lover, painter Mario Cavaradossi, bases a portrait of Mary Magdalene on another woman. When that woman’s brother, Angelotti, escapes from prison and Cavaradossi agrees to help him, vicious police chief Scarpia seeks to eliminate Cavaradossi and fulfil his long-held lust for Tosca.
After Scarpia’s men capture Cavaradossi, a desperate Tosca pleads for his life. As Cavaradossi’s anguished cries echo in the background, she agrees to give herself to Scarpia in exchange for a promise that the firing squad will fake the painter’s execution. Scarpia apparently gives the necessary orders, then advances on Tosca to claim his prize. To his shock, Tosca stabs him, confident that the murder will not be discovered until she and Cavaradossi are free.
Tosca assures Cavaradossi that he need only play along with a mock execution. However, when the guns fire, Scarpia’s cruel deception is revealed and Cavaradossi falls dead. The police then advance on Tosca, having discovered her crime. With only one way left to stay true to her heart, she makes a run for the parapet.
Opera in 3 acts
Sung in Italian
About 2 hours 10 min + intervals
Inside the church of Sant'Andrea della Valle
Cesare Angelotti, former consul of the Roman Republic and now an escaped political prisoner, runs into the church and hides in the Attavanti private chapel – his sister, the Marchesa Attavanti, has left a key to the chapel hidden at the feet of the statue of the Madonna. The elderly Sacristan enters and begins cleaning. The Sacristan kneels in prayer as the Angelus sounds.
The painter Mario Cavaradossi arrives to continue work on his picture of Mary Magdalene. The Sacristan identifies a likeness between the portrait and a blonde-haired woman who has been visiting the church recently (unknown to him, it is Angelotti's sister the Marchesa). Cavaradossi describes the "hidden harmony" ("Recondita armonia") in the contrast between the blonde beauty of his painting and his dark-haired lover, the singer Floria Tosca. The Sacristan mumbles his disapproval before leaving.
Angelotti emerges and tells Cavaradossi, an old friend who has republican sympathies, that he is being pursued by the Chief of Police, Baron Scarpia. Cavaradossi promises to assist him after nightfall. Tosca's voice is heard, calling to Cavaradossi. Cavaradossi gives Angelotti his basket of food and Angelotti hurriedly returns to his hiding place.
Tosca enters and suspiciously asks Cavaradossi what he has been doing – she thinks that he has been talking to another woman. Cavaradossi reassures her and Tosca tries to persuade him to take her to his villa that evening: "Non la sospiri, la nostra casetta" ("Do you not long for our little cottage"). She then expresses jealousy over the woman in the painting, whom she recognises as the Marchesa Attavanti. Cavaradossi explains the likeness; he has merely observed the Marchesa at prayer in the church. He reassures Tosca of his fidelity and asks her what eyes could be more beautiful than her own: "Qual'occhio al mondo" ("What eyes in the world").
After Tosca has left, Angelotti reappears and discusses with the painter his plan to flee disguised as a woman, using clothes left in the chapel by his sister. Cavaradossi gives Angelotti a key to his villa, suggesting that he hide in a disused well in the garden. The sound of a cannon signals that Angelotti's escape has been discovered. He and Cavaradossi hasten out of the church.
The Sacristan re-enters with choristers, celebrating the news that Napoleon has apparently been defeated at Marengo. The celebrations cease abruptly with the entry of Scarpia, his henchman Spoletta and several police agents. They have heard that Angelotti has sought refuge in the church. Scarpia orders a search, and the empty food basket and a fan bearing the Attavanti coat of arms are found in the chapel. Scarpia questions the Sacristan, and his suspicions are aroused further when he learns that Cavaradossi has been in the church; Scarpia mistrusts the painter, and believes him complicit in Angelotti's escape.
When Tosca arrives looking for her lover, Scarpia artfully arouses her jealous instincts by implying a relationship between the painter and the Marchesa Attavanti. He draws Tosca's attention to the fan and suggests that someone must have surprised the lovers in the chapel. Tosca falls for his deceit; enraged, she rushes off to confront Cavaradossi. Scarpia orders Spoletta and his agents to follow her, assuming she will lead them to Cavaradossi and Angelotti. He privately gloats as he reveals his intentions to possess Tosca and execute Cavaradossi. A procession enters the church singing the Te Deum; exclaiming 'Tosca, you make me forget even God!', Scarpia joins the chorus in the prayer.
Scarpia's apartment in the Palazzo Farnese, that evening
Scarpia, at supper, sends a note to Tosca asking her to come to his apartment, anticipating that two of his goals will soon be fulfilled at once. His agent, Spoletta, arrives to report that Angelotti remains at large, but Cavaradossi has been arrested for questioning. He is brought in, and an interrogation ensues. As the painter steadfastly denies knowing anything about Angelotti's escape, Tosca's voice is heard singing a celebratory cantata elsewhere in the Palace.
She enters the apartment in time to see Cavaradossi being escorted to an antechamber. All he has time to say is that she mustn't tell them anything. Scarpia then claims she can save her lover from indescribable pain if she reveals Angelotti's hiding place. She resists, but the sound of screams coming through the door eventually breaks her down, and she tells Scarpia to search the well in the garden of Cavaradossi's villa.
Scarpia orders his torturers to cease, and the bloodied painter is dragged back in. He's devastated to discover that Tosca has betrayed his friend. Sciarrone, another agent, then enters with news: there was an upset on the battlefield at Marengo, and the French are marching on Rome. Cavaradossi, unable to contain himself, gloats to Scarpia that his rule of terror will soon be at an end. This is enough for the police to consider him guilty, and they haul him away to be shot.
Scarpia, now alone with Tosca, proposes a bargain: if she gives herself to him, Cavaradossi will be freed. She is revolted, and repeatedly rejects his advances, but she hears the drums outside announcing an execution. As Scarpia awaits her decision, she prays, asking why God has abandoned her in her hour of need: "Vissi d'arte" ("I lived for art"). She tries to offer money, but Scarpia isn't interested in that kind of bribe: he wants Tosca herself.
Spoletta returns with the news that Angelotti has killed himself upon discovery, and that everything is in place for Cavaradossi's execution. Scarpia hesitates to give the order, looking to Tosca, and despairingly she agrees to submit to him. He tells Spoletta to arrange a mock execution, both men repeating that it will be "as we did with Count Palmieri," and Spoletta exits.
Tosca insists that Scarpia must provide safe-conduct out of Rome for herself and Cavaradossi. He easily agrees to this and heads to his desk. While he's drafting the document, she quietly takes a knife from the supper table. Scarpia triumphantly strides toward Tosca. When he begins to embrace her, she stabs him, crying "this is Tosca's kiss!" Once she's certain he's dead, she ruefully says "now I forgive him." She removes the safe-conduct from his pocket, lights candles in a gesture of piety, and places a crucifix on the body before leaving.
The upper parts of the Castel Sant'Angelo, early the following morning
A shepherd boy is heard offstage singing (in Romanesco dialect) "Io de' sospiri" ("I give you sighs") as church bells sound for matins. The guards lead Cavaradossi in and inform him that he has one hour to live. He declines to see a priest, but asks permission to write a letter to Tosca. He begins to write, but is soon overwhelmed by memories: "E lucevan le stelle" ("And the stars shone").
Tosca enters and shows him the safe-conduct pass she's obtained, adding that she has killed Scarpia and that the imminent execution is a sham. Cavaradossi must feign death, after which they can flee together before Scarpia's body is discovered. Cavaradossi is awestruck by his gentle lover's courage: "O dolci mani" ("Oh sweet hands"). The pair ecstatically imagines the life they will share, far from Rome. Tosca then anxiously coaches Cavaradossi on how to play dead when the firing squad shoots at him with blanks. He giddily promises he'll fall "like Tosca in the theatre."
Cavaradossi is led away, and Tosca watches with increasing impatience as the execution is prepared. The men fire, Cavaradossi falls, and Tosca exclaims "Ecco un artista!" ("What an actor!"). When the soldiers have all left, she hurries towards Cavaradossi, only to find that Scarpia betrayed her: the bullets were real. Heartbroken, she clasps her lover's lifeless body and weeps.
The voices of Spoletta, Sciarrone, and the soldiers are heard, shouting that Scarpia is dead and Tosca has killed him. As the men rush in, Tosca rises, evades their clutches, and runs to the parapet. Crying "O Scarpia, Avanti a Dio!" ("O Scarpia, we meet before God!"), she flings herself over the edge to her death.
Floria Tosca – Soprano (spinto)
A celebrated singer
Mario Cavaradossi – Tenor (spinto)
A painter, Tosca's lover
Baron Scarpia – Baritone (dramatic)
Chief of the Roman police
Cesare Angelotti – Baritone
Former Consul of the Roman Republic
A Sacristan – Baritone
Spoletta – Tenor
A police agent
Sciarrone – Bass
A police agent
A jailer – Bass
A shepherd boy - Boy oprano
Place of birth: Lucca, Italy
Place of death: Brussels, Belgium
Giacomo Puccini was an Italian Late Romantic opera composer. He came from a musical family with organists and composers in five generations. However, as a child Puccini was neither a keen student or particularly interested in music. That was not sparked until he attended a performance of Verdi’s Aida in Pisa 1876.
His operas are written in the realistic Verismo style, with La bohème, Tosca and Madama Butterfly being his most popular.
Although his operas were hugely praised, on a personal level Puccini was struggling. He was in a near fatal auto accident in his 40s, his love life was full of jealousy and drama and he later died from throat cancer a week after having received experimental radiation treatment in Brussels. At the time of Puccini’s death, he was the most commercially successful opera composer of all time.
“Inspiration is an awakening, a quickening of all man's faculties, and it is manifested in all high artistic achievements.“
He loved motor cars and speedboats. He was good friends with the inventor Thomas Edison.
Most prominent operas
Manon Lescaut 1893
La bohème 1896
Madama Butterfly 1904
La fanciulla del West 1910
La rondine 1917
Il tabarro 1918 (Il trittico)
Suor Angelica 1918 (Il trittico)
Gianni Schicchi 1918 (Il trittico)
Luigi Illica was an Italian librettist. Among his most famous works are La bohème, Tosca, Madama Butterfly and Andrea Chénier. In photos he is always turned to the right because he lost his ear in a duel over a woman.
Giuseppe Giacosa was an Italian poet, playwright and librettist. He worked together with Illica on the librettos for La bohème, Tosca and Madama Butterfly. He also finalised the libretto for Manon Lescaut.
The work, based on Victorien Sardou's 1887 French-language dramatic play, La Tosca, is a melodramatic piece set in Rome in June 1800, with the Kingdom of Naples's control of Rome threatened by Napoleon's invasion of Italy. It contains depictions of torture, murder and suicide, as well as some of Puccini's best-known lyrical arias.
3d1, 2+1, 2+1, 2+1 - 4, 3, 3, 1
timp, perc, bells, small bells, celesta, harp, strings
Tosca was first premiered at Teatro Costanzi in Rome in 1900. The premiere had to be postponed one day due to the turbulent political situation in Italy at the time. The performance was a popular event attended by Queen Margherita and the Prime Minister of Italy, Luigi Pelloux, among others.
Today Tosca is one of the top 5 most performed operas worldwide.
Aria - Dammi i colori... Recondita armonia (Cavaradossi)
Aria – Te Deum (Scarpia)
Trio - Vittoria, vittoria! (Cavaradossi, Tosca, Scarpia)
Aria – Vissi d'arte (Tosca)
Aria – E lucevan le stelle (Cavaradossi)