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Tosca

27 May—20 June 2019
Main Stage

Puccini's thrilling opera returns with star singers Kristine Opolais, Angela Gheorghiu, Vittorio Grigòlo, Bryn Terfel and Marco Vratogna in the lead roles.

When to see it

The Story

Rome in 1800 is in political chaos. Cesare Angelotti, a former consul of the short-lived Roman Republic, has escaped imprisonment, and seeks refuge in the church of Sant'Andrea della Valle. The painter and republican sympathizer Mario Cavaradossi promises to hide him at his country villa. Baron Scarpia, Rome's tyrannical Chief of Police, suspects that Cavaradossi has helped Angelotti to escape. He persuades the painter's opera singer lover Floria Tosca, whom he himself desires, that Cavaradossi has betrayed her. She leaves to confront Cavaradossi at his villa and Scarpia orders his men to follow her, in the hope they'll find Angelotti.

Read more… (Contains spoilers)

Background

Puccini had toyed with setting Victorien Sardou's 'hit' play La Tosca (written for the great actress Sarah Bernhardt) from the early 1890s, but only began serious work following the premiere of La bohème in 1896. He employed Bohème's gifted librettists Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica to streamline Sardou's complicated plot and give depth to his rather stereotypical characters. The opera's premiere at Rome's Teatro Costanzi on 14 January 1900 was indifferently received by the critics, many of whom disliked Tosca's violence. However, the public loved it and it has remained hugely popular.

Puccini portrays the idealism of Tosca and her lover Cavaradossi through radiant, expansive music, including Act I's duet 'Qual occhio al mondo', Cavaradossi's ardent aria 'Recondita armonia' and Tosca's despairing Act II prayer 'Vissi d'arte'. Scarpia's music, by contrast, is dark and terrifying - from the demonic chords that open the opera to the violence of his Act II exchanges with Tosca. Jonathan Kent's production, with Paul Brown's stunning designs, perfectly evokes the troubled atmosphere of Rome in 1800 and Tosca's combination of sensuality and religious sincerity.

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On Wikipedia

Tosca

Tosca (Italian pronunciation: [ˈtoska; ˈtɔska]) is an opera in three acts by Giacomo Puccini to an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa. It premiered at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome on 14 January 1900. 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. Puccini saw Sardou's play when it was touring Italy in 1889 and, after some vacillation, obtained the rights to turn the work into an opera in 1895. Turning the wordy French play into a succinct Italian opera took four years, during which the composer repeatedly argued with his librettists and publisher. Tosca premiered at a time of unrest in Rome, and its first performance was delayed for a day for fear of disturbances. Despite indifferent reviews from the critics, the opera was an immediate success with the public. Musically, Tosca is structured as a through-composed work, with arias, recitative, choruses and other elements musically woven into a seamless whole. Puccini used Wagnerian leitmotifs (short musical statements) to identify characters, objects and ideas. While critics have frequently dismissed the opera as a facile melodrama with confusions of plot—musicologist Joseph Kerman famously called it a "shabby little shocker"—the power of its score and the inventiveness of its orchestration have been widely acknowledged. The dramatic force of Tosca and its characters continues to fascinate both performers and audiences, and the work remains one of the most frequently performed operas. Many recordings of the work have been issued, both of studio and live performances.

Read the complete Tosca article on Wikipedia, available under a Creative Commons license.