Tosca, Opera by G. Puccini
Tosca was a passion project of Puccini's. He was immediately drawn to the original play by Victorien Sardou, which the critics had panned for its excessive melodrama and violence but the wider public adored. Puccini had to persuade Alberto Franchetti and librettist Luigi Illica to give up their adaptation of the play and pass the project to him instead. Sardou, who retained final say over the adaptation, and Puccini's own librettist Giuseppe Giacosa worked under almost constant protest against the maestro's creative vision.
Against these odds, Tosca was premiered on 14 January 1900 at Teatro Costanzi in Rome and won the audience's admiration. Those who attend the Puccini Festival in Torre del Lago will surely understand why: Tosca is a uniquely transporting and immersive stage work, which exemplifies Puccini's signature operatic realism. Set in Rome in 1800, the time of the Napoleonic Wars, the opera's ambience recreates many of the epoch's and the city's sounds and settings - an effect Puccini crafted with painstaking research and undeniable musical genius.
The plot unfolds in real time and follows popular singer Floria Tosca's tragic ordeal. Her lover Cavaradossi, a painter, is hiding fellow revolutionary Angelotti from the cronies of police chief Baron Scarpia. Made jealous by Cavaradossi's secretiveness and thanks to Scarpia's trickery, Tosca inadvertently gives away the two men's hiding place. Angelotti takes poison while Cavaradossi faces execution. Scarpia offers to spare his life and order the executioners to use blank bullets in exchange for a tryst with the young singer. She agrees and, after Scarpia gives the order, impulsively stabs him to death. To Tosca horror, however, a real execution takes place the following morning. Heartbroken and facing charges for Scarpia's murder, the young woman throws herself off the castle walls.
The intense drama and action which permeate Tosca draw the audience in, and those in attendance at the Gran Teatro Giacomo Puccini will dive into the atmosphere of 19th-century Rome instantly. Apart from the thrilling orchestration and the plot twists, several beautiful arias, such as Tosca's 'Vissi d'arte' and Cavaradossi's 'E lucevan de stelle' or 'O dolci mani,' showcase Puccini's lyrical and characterisation skills splendidly.