Tosca, Opera by G. Puccini
With a story that includes passion, intrigue, lust, murder and politics, Tosca is often thought of as one of the most thrilling operatic works of the 20th century. Written by Giacomo Puccini with a libretto in Italian by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, it was first performed in Rome on 14th January 1900 and has since been staged around the world countless times. Combining some very memorable arias with choruses plus leitmotifs to help identify characters and themes, Tosca was adapted from a French stage play called La Tosca, originally written by Victorien Sardou for Sarah Bernhardt. Puccini is said to have seen Bernhardt in the lead role in 1889 after which he sought the rights to turn it into a musical production.
Set during the Napoleonic Wars, Tosca's opening scene is in a Roman church where a political prisoner who is on the run has sought refuge. Tosca's lover, Cavaradossi, secretly helps the escapee but this arouses her suspicions that he is, in fact, seeing another woman. Thanks to the intervention of the Chief of Police, a character known as Baron Scarpia, Tosca is subsequently manipulated into giving away the hiding place of the former prisoner and the guilt of her lover. Cavaradossi is then given a death sentence from which further drama ensues.
Despite a mixed press reaction at the time of Tosca's premiere, it went on to become something of a hit with numerous sell-out audiences at the Teatro Costanzi where it first opened. Later in 1900, the opera transferred to La Scala in Milan to even more commercial and critical success. A London production opened soon afterwards while the Metropolitan Opera in New York first staged it the following year.
This production of Tosca takes place at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Theatre, a modern and spacious auditorium that was first opened in 1991. This comfortable venue is an ideal place to enjoy Tosca's intense orchestration. Many of the arias in the opera are well-known in their own right. The lead soprano's 'Vissi d'arte' is among the most memorable. In addition, 'E lucevan le stelle' and 'O dolci mani', both sung by Cavaradossi, highlight just how skilful Puccini was with bringing out the characters of the protagonists on stage through music.
Given the powerful and moving story of Tosca combined with the thoughtful staging at the Maggio Musicale Theatre in Florence, few operatic productions are likely to compare for sheer intensity. In short, for pure musical emotion, this is an opera not to be missed.