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Giacomo Puccini


Puccini: Tosca - Arena di Verona

Victorien Sardou, king of French melodramatists, wrote Toscaas a dramatic vehicle for Sarah Bernhardt. It was enormously successful and was given, according to its author, three thousand times. (Maybe that was only a slight exaggeration: he made the statement twenty years after the premiere.) At any rate, it appealed as a possible source for a libretto not only to Puccini but to Verdi and to Franchetti as well. Franchetti, in fact, secured the rights first, and it was only through a fine bit of skulduggery by Tito Ricordi, both Puccini's and Franchetti's publisher, that the rights were transferred from the lesser composer to the greater.

But there were others who thought, and perhaps still think, that the play is just too strong dramatically to serve as an ideal libretto. Some of the opening-night critics said just that. Mascagni thought so too. He said: “I have been victimized by poor librettos. Puccini is the victim of a libretto that is too good.”

Whether or not these critics are right, the facts remain that the opera is a huge success, that Sardou’s play virtually died after Bernhardt gave it up, and that Puccini's opera continues a vigorous life over sixty years after its premiere, after much more than three thousand performances, after hundreds of sopranos have taken that final jump over the parapet.

Puccini well understood the value of Sardou's drama, its speed and intensity. He objected strongly when his librettist, Illica, wanted to give the tenor a long farewell oration and compromised with the short but extremely moving aria E lucevan le stelle. He refused to write an old-fashioned quartet with the tortured tenor off-stage while Scarpia, Tosca, and Spoletta made comments on-stage. He even disliked the famous aria Vissi d’arte because it held up the action; and when, one day in rehearsal, Maria Jeritza accidentally rolled off the couch just before the first notes and sang the aria from the floor, the composer said: “That’s good. It gives the aria some life.” Jeritza always sang it that way thereafter.

Yes, Puccini was very much a man of the theater. Not that he lacked appreciation for a fine voice. One time, when the scheduled tenor was unable to keep an engagement to sing Cavaradossi, Ricordi sent for an audition a young tenor who, said the publisher with no show of originality in phrase, had "a voice of gold.” The unknown’s name was Enrico Caruso; and after Puccini had accompanied him in a run-through of Recondita armonia, he turned around on the piano stool and asked: “Who sent you to me? God?”

Tosca - Opéra - Giacomo Puccini



Opera in three acts by Giacomo Puccini with libretto in Italian by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, based on Victorien Sardou's play of the same name



Floria Tosca, a ptima donna
Mario Cavaradossi, a painter
Baron Scarpia, Chief of Police
Cesare Angelotti, a political prisoner

A Sacristan

Spoletta, a police agent
Sciarrone, a gendarme

A Jailer
A Shepherd bot 

Roberti, an executioner


Time: June 1800
Place: Rome

First performance at Rome, January 14, 1900


Floria Tosca:


Soprano. A prima donna in love with the painter Cavaradossi, and desired by Baron Scarpia. She visits Cavaradossi in the church where he is painting a portrait of the Madonna. She accuses him of painting the face of the Madonna with the features of the beautiful Marchese Attavanti. What she does not know is that Cavaradossi has given shelter to the Marchese's brother Angelotti, an escaped political prisoner. Tosca departs and the Sacristan brings news of Bonaparte's defeat. To celebrate, Tosca will sing that evening at a concert in the Farnese Palace, residence of Scarpia. After the concert she is summoned to the Baron's room. Cavaradossi has been arrested and is being tortured to make him reveal Angelotti's hiding-place. He is guarded by Spoletta and Sciarrone. Before he is dragged away to be tortured further, he orders her to say nothing, but unable to bear the sound of his suffering, she blurts out Angelotti's hiding-place. She begs for Cavaradossi's freedom and Scarpia is prepared to grant it—at a price: Tosca must be his. Overcome with disgust and shame, she agrees, and Scarpia orders his thugs to carry out a mock execution. Tosca insists he write out a safe conduct pass for herself and Cavaradossi. While he is doing this, she notices, on his dinner-table, a sharp knife and she makes a decision—she picks up the knife and hides it behind her back. Scarpia finishes writing and approaches Tosca, ready to extract the promised bargain. Tosca stabs him. Before she leaves the room she must find the letter allowing her and Cavaradossi to leave Rome. The note is still in Scarpia's hand and she has to prise it from his fingers. Now her innate religious devotion comes to the fore. She takes two candles from the table and places them next to the body and puts a crucifix on his chest. She grabs her cloak and leaves. Allowed to see Cavaradossi before his ‘execution’, she explains what she has done and how he must fake death until all the soldiers have left—he must give a convincing performance. But Scarpia has tricked her and after the firing-squad has left she discovers that Cavaradossi really has been shot. Scarpia's body has been found, and to evade the pursuing soldiers, Tosca jumps from the battlements. Aria: Vissi d'arte (‘I have lived for art’—this aria is almost always a show-stopper, so much so that Maria Callas is said to have considered excluding it in order to avoid a break in the continuity of the action); duets (with Cavaradossi): Quale occhio al mondo può star di paro (‘What eyes in the world can compare’); O dolci mani… (‘O sweet hands.’). Created (1900) by Hariclea Darclée.

Tosca is a great opportunity for a singing actress, covering the whole gamut of emotions. In the first act she displays her religious fervour, her love for Cavaradossi, and her jealousy at the thought that he might show interest in another woman. In the second act she has to be first the diva (singing offstage), then the broken woman who witnesses her lover being tortured. Self-disgust and shame are displayed at the thought of having to give herself to Scarpia. Then—and surely it is a spur-of-the-moment decision, as she sees the knife on the table—she has the strength, physical and psychological, to kill the Baron, and the presence of mind to remember to tear the necessary note from his hand. After she has stabbed Scarpia, she screams at him to die: Muori dannato! Muori! (‘Die accursed! Die!’) and when he has stopped moving she looks down on his body in amazement: È avanti a lui tremava tutta Roma! (‘And before him all Rome trembled!’). But she should have smelled a rat—when Scarpia ordered the mock execution of Cavaradossi to be ‘as with Palmieri’ she really should have asked what happened to Palmieri! No doubt the greatest Tosca of our lifetime—or may be any lifetime—has been Maria Callas, but others who have shone in the role include Emmy Destinn, Claudia Muzio, Maria Jeritza, Gina Cigna, Maria Caniglia, Ljuba Welitsch, Milka Ternina, Zinka Milanov, Régine Crespin, Renata Tebaldi, Birgit Nilsson, Leontyne Price, Grace Bumbry, Galina Vishnevskaya, Montserrat Caballé, Mirella Freni, Galina Gorchakova, Raina Kabaivanska, and Catherine Malfitano.

María Callas - Puccini "Vissi d'arte" (Tosca)

Montserrat Caballé - Vissi d'arte

Mario Cavaradossi:


Tenor. A painter and republican sympathizer in love with Tosca. While he is in the church of Sant’ Andrea painting a picture of the Madonna, Angelotti emerges from one of the side‐chapels. He is an escaped political prisoner and if caught will be executed by Baron Scarpia's men. Cavaradossi gives him food and suggests he hide in a well in the garden of his villa, where he will come to him later. Tosca arrives to visit her lover and scolds him for making the Madonna look like the Marchese Attavanti (sister of Angelotti), of whom she is needlessly jealous. He reassures her and she leaves. The old Sacristan enters and announces the defeat of Napoleon—to celebrate victory, a Te Deum will be sung in the church and Tosca will sing that evening at Baron Scarpia's residence, the Farnese Palace. Scarpia has Cavaradossi arrested for aiding a political prisoner. Tosca is brought to Scarpia's apartments to witness her lover's torture. Cavaradossi begs her to say nothing of Angelotti's whereabouts and his torture continues. In the last hour before his planned execution, he is allowed to write to Tosca, and as he does so she appears. She tells him that his execution will only be a mock affair—Scarpia has promised them a safe passage from Rome. Guessing that she must have promised herself to Scarpia in return for this favour, Cavaradossi is distraught, until Tosca tells him she has killed Scarpia and they will be able to escape, but first he must pretend to fall as he is shot and he must lie perfectly still. As soon as the firing‐squad departs Tosca will tell him and they can leave. They discuss how he will fall in a realistic manner and will not move until she says so. The firing‐squad march in, line up, and shoot. Cavaradossi falls and the soldiers depart. Tosca rushes to his side—but Cavaradossi is dead. Arias: Recondita armonia (‘Oh hidden harmony’); E lucevan le stelle (‘And the stars were shining’); duet (with Tosca): O dolce mani (‘O sweet hands’). Created (1900) by Emilio de Marchi (a fragment of whose performance at the NY Met in 1903 has been preserved on a Mapleson cylinder). This is one of Puccini's most lyrical and popular tenor roles. Among those notable in the part since its creation have been Fernando de Lucia, Jan Kiepura, Alfred Piccaver, Beniamino Gigli, Helge Roswaenge, Giuseppe di Stefano, Jussi Björling, Ferruccio Tagliavini, Mario del Monaco, Carlo Bergonzi, Franco Corelli, Giuseppe Giacomini, Plácido Domingo, José Carreras, Franco Bonisolli, and Luciano Pavarotti.

Tosca: E lucevan le stelle
The famous aria from Puccini's opera Tosca performed by Enrico Caruso (1904), Beniamino Gigli (1934) and Jussi Björling (1957).

Tosca: E lucevan le stelle
The famous aria from Puccini's opera Tosca performed by Richard Tucker, Mario Lanza and Luciano Pavarotti.

Tosca: E lucevan le stelle
The famous aria from Puccini's opera Tosca performed by Franco Corelli, Giuseppe Di Stefano and Alfredo Kraus.

Puccini : Tosca - "E lucevan le stelle" - Mario Del Monaco - 1975

Luciano Pavarotti: 'E Lucevan Le Stelle'

Placido Domingo - Tosca - E lucevan le stelle

G Puccini Tosca Act 3 E lucevan le stelle Jonas Kaufmann

Baron Scarpia:


Baritone. Chief of Police who lusts after the opera singer Tosca, lover of the painter Cavaradossi. After the defeat of Napoleon, he attends the celebratory Te Deum in the church where Cavaradossi is painting the Madonna. Kneeling to participate in the prayers, Scarpia mutters about how he hopes to persuade Tosca to be his. Back at his residence, Tosca can be heard singing off‐stage at the party given by Queen Caroline of Naples. Scarpia sends Sciarrone to deliver a note to Tosca to ensure that she comes to his apartment. Spoletta tells him they have arrested Cavaradossi for hiding a political fugitive. He is to be tortured and Scarpia hopes that by forcing Tosca to witness this, she will then succumb to him to save her lover. Tosca does indeed agree to be his, but first he must give her a written guarantee of safe passage for herself and Cavaradossi. He writes and signs this, then lustfully approaches her. With a knife she has taken from his table, Tosca kills him—no one need ever again be afraid of the evil Scarpia. But Scarpia has tricked her—Cavaradossi is executed by a firing squad as soldiers discover Scarpia's body. Arias: Tarda è la notte (‘Night is late’); Già, mi dicon venal (‘Yes, they say that I am venal’). Created (1900) by Eugenio Giraldoni. It is interesting that Scarpia appears for only a short while in Act 1 and not at all in Act 3. He has no major solo aria, most of his role consisting of exchanges with Tosca and his policemen during Act 2. Nevertheless it is a role aspired to by all great Italianate baritones, of whom Tito Gobbi, especially in his performances with Maria Callas as Tosca, was outstanding. Other names worth noting in this part include Dino Borgioli, Marcel Journet, Mariano Stabile, Lawrence Tibbett, Marko Rothmüller, George London, Leonard Warren, Giuseppe Taddei, Gabriel Bacquier, Kim Borg, Raimund Herincx, Dietrich Fischer‐Dieskau, Sherrill Milnes, Sergei Leiferkus, Bryn Terfel, and Otakar Kraus. 

1968 Tosca Act II - Joan Sutherland & Tito Gobbi

Sherrill Milnes - Price (1973) Aria Già Mi dicon venal - Non resta che un'ora di vita

Dmitri Hvorostovsky - Te Deum (Scarpia's aria from Puccini's "Tosca")

Cesare Angelotti:

Bass. Former Consul of the Roman republic. He has been a political prisoner but has escaped and come to the church of Sant’ Andrea where his sister, the Marchese Attavanti, has left a key for him. This opens a door to a side‐chapel in which he hides. When Tosca leaves the church, he reveals himself to his old friend, the painter Cavaradossi, who gives him food and suggests he hides in the well in his garden to evade Baron Scarpia's troops. Tosca betrays his hiding‐place when she is unable any longer to listen to the sound of Cavaradossi's screams as he is tortured. When he is discovered, Angelotti kills himself. Created (1900) by Ruggero Galli.



Bass. He potters about the church, and cleans the brushes which the artist Cavaradossi is using for his painting of the Madonna. He announces the defeat of Bonaparte and tells Cavaradossi that, in celebration, Tosca will sing that night at the Farnese Palace, residence of Baron Scarpia. Created ( 1900 ) by Ettore Borelli .




Tenor. A police agent who assists Scarpia in the arrest and torture of Cavaradossi. After Tosca agrees to Scarpia's condition for Cavaradossi's release—that she must give herself to the Baron—Scarpia tells her there must be a mock execution and he gives his orders for this to take place to Spoletta: ‘…as in the case of Palmieri’, says the Baron, and Spoletta repeats his orders: ‘Just like Palmieri’. Created (1900) by Enrico Giordani.




Bass. A member of Baron Scarpia's police who helps in the arrest and torture of Cavaradossi. Created (1900) by Giuseppe Girone.

Puccini - TOSCA
Salazar, Pavarotti, Pons, Bou;
P Domingo F Zeffirelli Coro e Orchestra del Teatro dell



Three crashing chords, always used to suggest Scarpia, Rome's sinister chief of police, open the opera. He is the grim and elegant figure who epitomizes the reactionary forces of Italy, in 1800, when Napoleon was regarded as an apostle of freedom. Immediately after those opening chords the curtain rises on the interior of the church of Saint*Andrea della Valle. In rushes a disheveled man. He is Angelotti, an escaped political prisoner, and he hides in the chapel of the Attavanti on the right. A moment later comes the sacristan of the church, busily talking to himself and fussing over a painter's dais on the left of the stage. Now enter our hero, Mario Cavaradossi, a painter, who starts working on a portrait of the Magdalen that stands half finished on the easel. He sings the aria Recondite armonia, in which he compares the features of his picture with those of his beloved, the celebrated diva, Floria Tosca.

After the sacristan has left, Cavaradossi discovers Angelotti, whom he thrusts back into the chapel as the voice of Tosca is heard outside demanding entrance. Tosca is a strikingly handsome, fashionably dressed prima donna, and, as so many beautiful women are said to be, is easily aroused to jealousy. This time she is jealous of the picture her lover is painting, and he has some difficulty calming her. He succeeds, however; and at the end of their love duet they plan a rendezvous in his villa for that same night, after she has sung a performance at the Famese Palace. When she has left, Angelotti emerges once more, and Cavaradossi goes off with him, to hide him in his own house.

Now comes news of the defeat of Napoleon in the north. Preparations are made for a special service in the church. But in the midst of these preparations in comes Scarpia, who, as chief of police, is searching for the escaped Angelotti. With his evil-looking assistant Spoletta, he finds a number of clues, including a fan. This he uses cleverly to arouse the jealousy of Tosca, whom he desires for himself.

The services begin. A great procession comes into the church; and while the Te Deum of victory is sung, Scarpia stands to one side expressing his hope of disposing of his rival, Cavaradossi, through Tosca's jealousy. If his plot succeeds, Cavaradossi should end on the scaffold and Floria Tosca in Scarpia’s anns. Just before the curtain falls, with these evil thoughts still in his mind, he kneels in prayer with the others.

Puccini - Tosca


That night, in the Famese Palace, the victory over Napoleon is being celebrated, and music is heard through the windows of Scarpia’s office in that building. Scarpia, alone, ruminates on the events of the day; he sends, via tie gendarme Sciarrone, a message to Tosca; and he receives a report from Spoletta. That vulture had searched Cavaradossi’s house, failed to find Angelotti, but had seen Tosca there. He had arrested Cavaradossi and brought him to the palace, a prisoner. As Tosca’s voice is heard below, singing the solo part in a victory cantata, her lover is brought in and questioned, but to no avail. When Tosca arrives, he manages to whisper to her that Scarpia knows nothing as yet and that she should tell of nothing that she had seen at his villa. He is then ordered into the next room accompanied by guards, including the executioner Roberta.

Scarpia then begins to question Tosca, who maintains a fine poise until she begins to hear Cavaradossi’s screams of anguish under torture from the next room. Unable to bear this, she tells Scarpia that Angelotti is hidden in the well in the garden.

Cavaradossi, considerably the worse for wear, is brought in and leams that Tosca has betrayed his friend. A moment later news comes that Napoleon has won a victory at Marengo. The painter sings a triumphant paean to liberty, and is contemptuously ordered out, to be executed in the morning.

Then Scarpia politely and fiendishly recommences his interview with the distraught Tosca, and it is during this very uncomfortable interview that she sings her aria Vissi cTarte, passionately apostrophizing love and music, the two great forces to which she has devoted her life. Finally, she agrees to sacrifice herself for her lover's life.

Now Scarpia explains that, as he has already ordered Cavaradossi’s execution, a mock execution at least must be arranged. He summons Spoletta. to give these orders, and he makes out passes for Tosca and her lover to leave the city. But as he turns to take his victim in his arms, she plunges a knife into him, crying at the same time: “Thus it is that Tosca kisses I” (The orchestra plays those three Scarpia chords—but this time pianissimo.)

Quickly, then, she washes her bloodstained hands, takes the safe-conducts from Scarpia’s lifeless fingers, places a lighted candle on either side of his head and a crucifix on his breast, and sweeps from the room as the curtain falls.

Puccini  - Tosca
Jonas Kaufmann, A Gheorghiu, B Terfel,
Vienna - 2016


The final act begins peacefully enough with the very early morning song of a shepherd boy heard off-stage. The scene of the act is the roof of the Castle of Sant' Angelo in Rome, where Cavaradossi has been brought for execution. He is allowed a short time to prepare for death. This he uses to write a farewell to his beloved Tosca, and he sings the heartbreaking aria E lucevan le stelle—“The stars were shining brightly.”

Soon Tosca herself enters. She shows him the safe-conducts she secured from Scarpia; she tells him how she has killed the wicked police chief; and the two lovers sing a passionate duet, anticipating their happy future. Finally, Tosca explains that Cavaradossi still must go through the farce of a mock execution, after which they will fly together.


The execution squad now enters, led by Spoletta. Mario stands up before them; they fire; he falls; the soldiers depart; and Tosca rushes over to the fallen body of her lover. It is only then that she discovers how Scarpia had fooled her. For the bullets used were real, and Cavaradossi lies dead. Even as she gives vent to her grief, the soldiers return, having discovered the murder of Scarpia. Spoletta attempts to seize Tosca but she wrenches herself free, climbs high on the parapet, and flings herself over to certain death. As the orchestra thunders out Mario’s farewell, the soldiers stand helpless and horror-struck.


Puccini - Tosca
dir.musicale Mario Parenti 
    Floria Tosca - Renata Tebaldi
    Mario Cavaradossi - Franco Corelli
    le baron Scarpia - Anselmo Colzani
    le sacristain - Pier Luigi Latinucci
    Cesare Angelotti - Gino Belloni
    Spoletta - Cesare Masini-Sperti
    Sciarrone - Enzo Venchi

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