Tosca, Opera by G. Puccini
Tosca represents one of Giacomo Puccini's most ardent passion projects. The violent, melodramatic play of the same title by Victorien Sardou, on which Puccini based his work, left a deep impression on the Italian opera master, who was always attracted to volatile, tragic female lead characters. The drama, violence, and inspired music of Tosca will shake the stage of Gran Teatro La Fenice in Venice to its core this season.
Where critics saw gratuitous violence and hardly believable plot twists, Puccini identified key elements of raw realism. He did extensive research on the sounds and atmosphere of revolutionary Rome in 1800, and he created one of his most authentic works of opera vera. Its haunting score is a love letter to the Eternal City and transports the audience into the heart of the dramatic action. The premiere at Teatro Costanzi in Rome on 14 January 1900 was a riot.
Tosca unfolds in nearly real time. It introduces us to our hero, the revolutionary-turned-painter Cavaradossi, as Angelotti, a fellow freedom fighter, turns up suddenly and asks for shelter. As the two men plan their hideout, Cavaradossi's lover, famed Roman singer Floria Tosca, enters the scene. Mistaking her partner's secretiveness for unfaithfulness, she allows police chief Scarpia to manipulate her into divulging the two men's hiding place.
After Angelotti dies and Cavaradossi faces execution, Tosca is torn by guilt and pleads for his release. Scarpia agrees to stage a fake execution in exchange for a night with the young singer. As soon as he gives the orders, Tosca impulsively stabs him to death and rushes to her lover's cell to tell him that he will be free tomorrow. Alas, Scarpia's final instructions weren't clear enough and the firing squad kills Cavaradossi at dawn. Driven mad with guilt and sorrow, Tosca throws herself off Rome's walls.
Although the plot of Tosca is full of overly emotional twists and unexpected turns, Puccini's harrowing score hurls us right into the action and does not let go until the dramatic end. The plot's rapidity is matched by tense and rushing orchestral passages.
For all its action, however, Tosca is not bereft of stellar solo numbers. Tosca's character-revealing 'Vissi d'arte' and Cavaradossi's lyrical 'E lucevan le stelle' and his optimistic, gentle 'O dolci mani' stand out beautifully.