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
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.
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 to identify
characters, objects and ideas. While critics have often dismissed the
opera as a facile melodrama with confusions of plot—musicologist
Joseph Kerman 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.
3.1 Historical context
3.2 Act 1
3.3 Act 2
3.4 Act 3
4 Adaptation and writing
5 Reception and performance history
5.2 Subsequent productions
5.3 Critical reception
6.1 General style
6.2 Act 1
6.3 Act 2
6.4 Act 3
7 List of arias and set numbers
9 Editions and amendments
11 Further reading
12 External links
Main article: La Tosca
Punch cartoon depicting the end of Sardou's La Tosca, 1888
The French playwright
Victorien Sardou wrote more than 70 plays,
almost all of them successful, and none of them performed today. In
the early 1880s Sardou began a collaboration with actress Sarah
Bernhardt, whom he provided with a series of historical melodramas.
His third Bernhardt play, La Tosca, which premiered in Paris on
24 November 1887, and in which she starred throughout Europe, was
an outstanding success, with more than 3,000 performances in France
Puccini had seen
La Tosca at least twice, in Milan and Turin. On
7 May 1889 he wrote to his publisher, Giulio Ricordi, begging him
to get Sardou's permission for the work to be made into an opera: "I
see in this
Tosca the opera I need, with no overblown proportions, no
elaborate spectacle, nor will it call for the usual excessive amount
Ricordi sent his agent in Paris, Emanuele Muzio, to negotiate with
Sardou, who preferred that his play be adapted by a French composer.
He complained about the reception
La Tosca had received in Italy,
particularly in Milan, and warned that other composers were interested
in the piece. Nonetheless, Ricordi reached terms with Sardou and
assigned the librettist
Luigi Illica to write a scenario for an
In 1891, Illica advised Puccini against the project, most likely
because he felt the play could not be successfully adapted to a
musical form. When Sardou expressed his unease at entrusting his
most successful work to a relatively new composer whose music he did
not like, Puccini took offence. He withdrew from the agreement,
which Ricordi then assigned to the composer Alberto Franchetti.
Illica wrote a libretto for Franchetti, who was never at ease with the
When Puccini once again became interested in Tosca, Ricordi was able
to get Franchetti to surrender the rights so he could recommission
Puccini. One story relates that Ricordi convinced Franchetti that
the work was too violent to be successfully staged. A Franchetti
family tradition holds that Franchetti gave the work back as a grand
gesture, saying, "He has more talent than I do." American scholar
Deborah Burton contends that Franchetti gave it up simply because he
saw little merit in it and could not feel the music in the play.
Whatever the reason, Franchetti surrendered the rights in May 1895,
and in August Puccini signed a contract to resume control of the
Premiere cast, 14 January 1900
(Conductor: Leopoldo Mugnone)
Floria Tosca, a celebrated singer
Mario Cavaradossi, a painter
Emilio De Marchi
Baron Scarpia, chief of police
Cesare Angelotti, former Consul of the Roman Republic
Spoletta, a police agent
Sciarrone, another agent
A Shepherd boy
Soldiers, police agents, altar boys, noblemen and women, townsfolk,
See also: French Revolutionary Wars
The Battle of Marengo, as painted by Louis-François Lejeune
According to the libretto, the action of
Tosca occurs in Rome in June
1800. Sardou, in his play, dates it more precisely;
La Tosca takes
place in the afternoon, evening, and early morning of 17 and
18 June 1800.
Italy had long been divided into a number of small states, with the
Pope in Rome ruling the
Papal States in central Italy. Following the
French Revolution, a French army under
Napoleon invaded Italy in 1796,
entering Rome almost unopposed on 11 February 1798 and
establishing a republic there.
Pope Pius VI
Pope Pius VI was taken prisoner,
and was sent into exile on February 20, 1798. (Pius VI would die in
exile in 1799, and his successor, Pius VII, who was elected in Venice
on 14 March 1800, would not enter Rome until July 3. There is thus
neither a Pope nor papal government in Rome during the days depicted
in the opera.) The new republic was ruled by seven consuls; in the
opera this is the office formerly held by Angelotti, whose character
may be based on the real-life consul Liborio Angelucci. In
September 1799 the French, who had protected the republic, withdrew
from Rome. As they left, troops of the
Kingdom of Naples
Kingdom of Naples occupied
In May 1800 Napoleon, by then the undisputed leader of France, brought
his troops across the Alps to Italy once again. On 14 June his
army met the Austrian forces at the
Battle of Marengo
Battle of Marengo (near
Alessandria). Austrian troops were initially successful; by
mid-morning they were in control of the field of battle. Their
commander, Michael von Melas, sent this news south towards Rome.
However, fresh French troops arrived in late afternoon, and Napoleon
attacked the tired Austrians. As Melas retreated in disarray with the
remains of his army, he sent a second courier south with the revised
message. The Neapolitans abandoned Rome, and the city spent
the next fourteen years under French domination.
Inside the church of Sant'Andrea della Valle
Te Deum scene which concludes act 1; Scarpia stands at left.
Photograph of a pre-1914 production at the old Metropolitan Opera
House, New York
Cesare Angelotti, former consul of the Roman Republic and now an
escaped political prisoner, runs into the church and hides in the
Attavanti private chapel – his sister, the Marchesa Attavanti, has
left a key to the chapel hidden at the feet of the statue of the
Madonna. The elderly
Sacristan enters and begins cleaning. The
Sacristan kneels in prayer as the
The painter Mario Cavaradossi arrives to continue work on his picture
of Mary Magdalene. The
Sacristan identifies a likeness between the
portrait and a blonde-haired woman who has been visiting the church
recently (unknown to him, it is Angelotti's sister the Marchesa).
Cavaradossi describes the "hidden harmony" ("Recondita armonia") in
the contrast between the blonde beauty of his painting and his
dark-haired lover, the singer Floria Tosca. The
Sacristan mumbles his
disapproval before leaving.
Angelotti emerges and tells Cavaradossi, an old friend who has
republican sympathies, that he is being pursued by the Chief of
Police, Baron Scarpia. Cavaradossi promises to assist him after
nightfall. Tosca's voice is heard, calling to Cavaradossi. Cavaradossi
gives Angelotti his basket of food and Angelotti hurriedly returns to
his hiding place.
Tosca enters and suspiciously asks Cavaradossi what he has been doing
– she thinks that he has been talking to another woman. Cavaradossi
reassures her and
Tosca tries to persuade him to take her to his villa
that evening: "Non la sospiri, la nostra casetta" ("Do you not long
for our little cottage"). She then expresses jealousy over the woman
in the painting, whom she recognises as the Marchesa Attavanti.
Cavaradossi explains the likeness; he has merely observed the Marchesa
at prayer in the church. He reassures
Tosca of his fidelity and asks
her what eyes could be more beautiful than her own: "Qual'occhio al
mondo" ("What eyes in the world").
Tosca has left, Angelotti reappears and discusses with the
painter his plan to flee disguised as a woman, using clothes left in
the chapel by his sister. Cavaradossi gives Angelotti a key to his
villa, suggesting that he hide in a disused well in the garden. The
sound of a cannon signals that Angelotti's escape has been discovered.
He and Cavaradossi hasten out of the church.
Sacristan re-enters with choristers, celebrating the news that
Napoleon has apparently been defeated at Marengo. The celebrations
cease abruptly with the entry of Scarpia, his henchman Spoletta and
several police agents. They have heard that Angelotti has sought
refuge in the church. Scarpia orders a search, and the empty food
basket and a fan bearing the Attavanti coat of arms are found in the
chapel. Scarpia questions the Sacristan, and his suspicions are
aroused further when he learns that Cavaradossi has been in the
church; Scarpia mistrusts the painter, and believes him complicit in
Tosca arrives looking for her lover, Scarpia artfully arouses her
jealous instincts by implying a relationship between the painter and
the Marchesa Attavanti. He draws Tosca's attention to the fan and
suggests that someone must have surprised the lovers in the chapel.
Tosca falls for his deceit; enraged, she rushes off to confront
Cavaradossi. Scarpia orders Spoletta and his agents to follow her,
assuming she will lead them to Cavaradossi and Angelotti. He privately
gloats as he reveals his intentions to possess
Tosca and execute
Cavaradossi. A procession enters the church singing the Te Deum;
exclaiming 'Tosca, you make me forget even God!', Scarpia joins the
chorus in the prayer.
Tosca reverently lays a crucifix on Scarpia's body. Photograph of a
pre-1914 production at the old Metropolitan
Opera House, New York
Scarpia's apartment in the Palazzo Farnese, that evening
Scarpia, at supper, sends a note to
Tosca asking her to come to his
apartment, anticipating that two of his goals will soon be fulfilled
at once. His agent, Spoletta, arrives to report that Angelotti remains
at large, but Cavaradossi has been arrested for questioning. He is
brought in, and an interrogation ensues. As the painter steadfastly
denies knowing anything about Angelotti's escape, Tosca's voice is
heard singing a celebratory cantata elsewhere in the Palace.
She enters the apartment in time to see Cavaradossi being escorted to
an antechamber. All he has time to say is that she mustn't tell them
anything. Scarpia then claims she can save her lover from
indescribable pain if she reveals Angelotti's hiding place. She
resists, but the sound of screams coming through the door eventually
breaks her down, and she tells Scarpia to search the well in the
garden of Cavaradossi's villa.
Scarpia orders his torturers to cease, and the bloodied painter is
dragged back in. He's devastated to discover that
Tosca has betrayed
his friend. Sciarrone, another agent, then enters with news: there was
an upset on the battlefield at Marengo, and the French are marching on
Rome. Cavaradossi, unable to contain himself, gloats to Scarpia that
his rule of terror will soon be at an end. This is enough for the
police to consider him guilty, and they haul him away to be shot.
Scarpia, now alone with Tosca, proposes a bargain: if she gives
herself to him, Cavaradossi will be freed. She is revolted, and
repeatedly rejects his advances, but she hears the drums outside
announcing an execution. As Scarpia awaits her decision, she prays,
asking why God has abandoned her in her hour of need: "Vissi d'arte"
("I lived for art"). She tries to offer money, but Scarpia isn't
interested in that kind of bribe: he wants
Spoletta returns with the news that Angelotti has killed himself upon
discovery, and that everything is in place for Cavaradossi's
execution. Scarpia hesitates to give the order, looking to Tosca, and
despairingly she agrees to submit to him. He tells Spoletta to arrange
a mock execution, both men repeating that it will be "as we did with
Count Palmieri," and Spoletta exits.
Tosca insists that Scarpia must provide safe-conduct out of Rome for
herself and Cavaradossi. He easily agrees to this and heads to his
desk. While he's drafting the document, she quietly takes a knife from
the supper table. Scarpia triumphantly strides toward Tosca. When he
begins to embrace her, she stabs him, crying "this is Tosca's kiss!"
Once she's certain he's dead, she ruefully says "now I forgive him."
She removes the safe-conduct from his pocket, lights candles in a
gesture of piety, and places a crucifix on the body before leaving.
The upper parts of the Castel Sant'Angelo, early the following morning
The Castel Sant'Angelo, (right), scene of the
Tosca denouement, as
painted in the 18th century
A shepherd boy is heard offstage singing (in Romanesco dialect) "Io
de' sospiri" ("I give you sighs") as church bells sound for matins.
The guards lead Cavaradossi in and inform him that he has one hour to
live. He declines to see a priest, but asks permission to write a
letter to Tosca. He begins to write, but is soon overwhelmed by
memories: "E lucevan le stelle" ("And the stars shone").
Tosca enters and shows him the safe-conduct pass she's obtained,
adding that she has killed Scarpia and that the imminent execution is
a sham. Cavaradossi must feign death, after which they can flee
together before Scarpia's body is discovered. Cavaradossi is awestruck
by his gentle lover's courage: "O dolci mani" ("Oh sweet hands"). The
pair ecstatically imagines the life they will share, far from Rome.
Tosca then anxiously coaches Cavaradossi on how to play dead when the
firing squad shoots at him with blanks. He giddily promises he'll fall
Tosca in the theatre."
Cavaradossi is led away, and
Tosca watches with increasing impatience
as the execution is prepared. The men fire, Cavaradossi falls, and
Tosca exclaims "Ecco un artista!" ("What an actor!"). When the
soldiers have all left, she hurries towards Cavaradossi, only to find
that Scarpia betrayed her: the bullets were real. Heartbroken, she
clasps her lover's lifeless body and weeps.
The voices of Spoletta, Sciarrone, and the soldiers are heard,
shouting that Scarpia is dead and
Tosca has killed him. As the men
Tosca rises, evades their clutches, and runs to the parapet.
Crying "O Scarpia, Avanti a Dio!" ("O Scarpia, we meet before God!"),
she flings herself over the edge to her death.
Adaptation and writing
Sardou's five-act play
La Tosca contains a large amount of dialogue
and exposition. While the broad details of the play are present in the
opera's plot, the original work contains many more characters and much
detail not present in the opera. In the play the lovers are portrayed
as though they were French: the character Floria
Tosca is closely
modelled on Bernhardt's personality, while her lover Cavaradossi, of
Roman descent, is born in Paris. Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, the
playwright who joined the project to polish the verses, needed not
only to cut back the play drastically, but to make the characters'
motivations and actions suitable for Italian opera. Giacosa and
Puccini repeatedly clashed over the condensation, with Giacosa feeling
that Puccini did not really want to complete the project.
Front cover of the original 1899 libretto
The first draft libretto that Illica produced for Puccini resurfaced
in 2000 after being lost for many years. It contains considerable
differences from the final libretto, relatively minor in the first two
acts but much more appreciable in the third, where the description of
the Roman dawn that opens the third act is much longer, and
Cavaradossi's tragic aria, the eventual "E lucevan le stelle", has
different words. The 1896 libretto also offers a different ending, in
Tosca does not die but instead goes mad. In the final scene, she
cradles her lover's head in her lap and hallucinates that she and her
Mario are on a gondola, and that she is asking the gondolier for
silence. Sardou refused to consider this change, insisting that as
in the play,
Tosca must throw herself from the parapet to her
death. Puccini agreed with Sardou, telling him that the mad scene
would have the audiences anticipate the ending and start moving
towards the cloakrooms. Puccini pressed his librettists hard, and
Giacosa issued a series of melodramatic threats to abandon the
work. The two librettists were finally able to give Puccini what
they hoped was a final version of the libretto in 1898.
Little work was done on the score during 1897, which Puccini devoted
mostly to performances of La bohème. The opening page of the
Tosca score, containing the motif that would be associated
with Scarpia, is dated January 1898. At Puccini's request, Giacosa
irritably provided new lyrics for the act 1 love duet. In August,
Puccini removed several numbers from the opera, according to his
biographer, Mary Jane Phillips-Matz, "cut[ting]
Tosca to the bone,
leaving three strong characters trapped in an airless, violent,
tightly wound melodrama that had little room for lyricism". At the
end of the year, Puccini wrote that he was "busting his balls" on the
Puccini asked clerical friends for words for the congregation to
mutter at the start of the act 1 Te Deum; when nothing they provided
satisfied him, he supplied the words himself. For the Te Deum
music, he investigated the melodies to which the hymn was set in Roman
churches, and sought to reproduce the cardinal's procession
authentically, even to the uniforms of the Swiss Guards. He
adapted the music to the exact pitch of the great bell of St. Peter's
Basilica, and was equally diligent when writing the music that
opens act 3, in which Rome awakens to the sounds of church bells.
He journeyed to Rome and went to the
Castel Sant'Angelo to measure the
sound of matins bells there, as they would be heard from its
ramparts. Puccini had bells for the Roman dawn cast to order by
four different foundries. This apparently did not have its desired
effect, as Illica wrote to Ricordi on the day after the premiere, "the
great fuss and the large amount of money for the bells have
constituted an additional folly, because it passes completely
unnoticed". Nevertheless, the bells provide a source of trouble
and expense to opera companies performing
Tosca to this day.
In act 2, when
Tosca sings offstage the cantata that celebrates the
supposed defeat of Napoleon, Puccini was tempted to follow the text of
Sardou's play and use the music of Giovanni Paisiello, before finally
writing his own imitation of Paisello's style. It was not until
29 September 1899 that Puccini was able to mark the final page of
the score as completed. Despite the notation, there was additional
work to be done, such as the shepherd boy's song at the start of
act 3. Puccini, who always sought to put local colour in his works,
wanted that song to be in Roman dialect. The composer asked a friend
to have a "good romanesco poet" write some words; eventually the poet
and folklorist Luigi "Giggi" Zanazzo (it) wrote the verse which,
after slight modification, was placed in the opera.
In October 1899, Ricordi realized that some of the music for
Cavaradossi's act 3 aria, "O dolci mani" was borrowed from music
Puccini had cut from his early opera, Edgar and demanded changes.
Puccini defended his music as expressive of what Cavaradossi must be
feeling at that point, and offered to come to Milan to play and sing
act 3 for the publisher. Ricordi was overwhelmed by the completed
act 3 prelude, which he received in early November, and softened his
views, though he was still not completely happy with the music for "O
dolci mani". In any event time was too short before the scheduled
January 1900 premiere to make any further changes.
Reception and performance history
Enrico Caruso as Cavaradossi. Passed over for the role at the
premiere, he sang it many times subsequently
By December 1899,
Tosca was in rehearsal at the Teatro Costanzi.
Because of the Roman setting, Ricordi arranged a Roman premiere for
the opera, even though this meant that
Arturo Toscanini could not
conduct it as Puccini had hoped—Toscanini was fully engaged at La
Scala in Milan.
Leopoldo Mugnone was appointed to conduct. The
accomplished (but temperamental) soprano
Hariclea Darclée was
selected for the title role; Eugenio Giraldoni, whose father had
originated many Verdi roles, became the first Scarpia. The young
Enrico Caruso had hoped to create Cavaradossi, but was passed over in
favour of the more experienced Emilio De Marchi. The performance
was to be directed by Nino Vignuzzi, with stage designs by Adolfo
At the time of the premiere, Italy had experienced political and
social unrest for several years. The start of the
Holy Year in
December 1899 attracted the religious to the city, but also brought
threats from anarchists and other anticlericals. Police received
warnings of an anarchist bombing of the theatre, and instructed
Mugnone (who had survived a theatre bombing in Barcelona), that in
an emergency he was to strike up the royal march. The unrest
caused the premiere to be postponed by one day, to
By 1900, the premiere of a Puccini opera was a national event.
Many Roman dignitaries attended, as did Queen Margherita, though she
arrived late, after the first act. The Prime Minister of Italy,
Luigi Pelloux was present, with several members of his cabinet. A
number of Puccini's operatic rivals were there, including Franchetti,
Francesco Cilea and Ildebrando Pizzetti. Shortly
after the curtain was raised there was a disturbance in the back of
the theatre, caused by latecomers attempting to enter the auditorium,
and a shout of "Bring down the curtain!", at which Mugnone stopped the
orchestra. A few moments later the opera began again, and
proceeded without further disruption.
The performance, while not quite the triumph that Puccini had hoped
for, was generally successful, with numerous encores. Much of the
critical and press reaction was lukewarm, often blaming Illica's
libretto. In response, Illica condemned Puccini for treating his
librettists "like stagehands" and reducing the text to a shadow of its
original form. Nevertheless, any public doubts about
vanished; the premiere was followed by twenty performances, all given
to packed houses.
Antonio Scotti, an early exponent of the role of Scarpia
The Milan premiere at
La Scala took place under Toscanini on
17 March 1900. Darclée and Giraldoni reprised their roles; the
Giuseppe Borgatti replaced De Marchi as Cavaradossi.
The opera was a great success at La Scala, and played to full
houses. Puccini travelled to London for the British premiere at
Opera House, Covent Garden, on 12 July, with Milka
Fernando De Lucia
Fernando De Lucia as the doomed lovers and Antonio Scotti
as Scarpia. Puccini wrote that
Tosca was "[a] complete triumph", and
Ricordi's London representative quickly signed a contract to take
Tosca to New York. The premiere at the Metropolitan
Opera was on
4 February 1901, with De Lucia's replacement by Giuseppe
Cremonini the only change from the London cast. For its French
premiere at the
Opéra-Comique on 13 October 1903, the
72-year-old Sardou took charge of all the action on the stage. Puccini
was delighted with the public's reception of the work in Paris,
despite adverse comments from critics. The opera was subsequently
premiered at venues throughout Europe, the Americas, Australia and the
Far East; by the outbreak of war in 1914 it had been performed in
more than 50 cities worldwide.
Among the prominent early Toscas was Emmy Destinn, who sang the role
regularly in a long-standing partnership with the tenor Enrico
Caruso. Maria Jeritza, over many years at the Met and in Vienna,
brought her own distinctive style to the role, and was said to be
Puccini's favorite Tosca. Jeritza was the first to deliver "Vissi
d'arte" from a prone position, having fallen to the stage while
eluding the grasp of Scarpia. This was a great success, and Jeritza
sang the aria while on the floor thereafter. Of her successors,
opera enthusiasts tend to consider
Maria Callas as the supreme
interpreter of the role, largely on the basis of her performances at
Opera House in 1964, with
Tito Gobbi as Scarpia. This
production, by Franco Zeffirelli, remained in continuous use at Covent
Garden for more than 40 years until replaced in 2006 by a new staging,
which premiered with Angela Gheorghiu. Callas had first sung
age 18 in a performance given in Greek, in the Greek National
Athens on 27 August 1942.
Tosca was also her last
on-stage operatic role, in a special charity performance at the Royal
Opera House on 7 May 1965.
Among non-traditional productions, Luca Ronconi, in 1996 at La Scala,
used distorted and fractured scenery to represent the twists of fate
reflected in the plot. Jonathan Miller, in a 1986 production for
the 49th Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, transferred the action to
Nazi-occupied Rome in 1944, with Scarpia as head of the fascist
police. In Philipp Himmelmann's production on the Lake Stage at
Bregenz Festival in 2007 the act 1 set, designed by Johannes
Leiacker, was dominated by a huge
Orwellian "Big Brother" eye. The
iris opens and closes to reveal surreal scenes beyond the action. This
production updates the story to a modern Mafia scenario, with special
effects "worthy of a Bond film".
Roberto Alagna as Cavaradossi, Royal
Opera House, 2014
In 1992 a television version of the opera was filmed at the locations
prescribed by Puccini, at the times of day at which each act takes
place. Featuring Catherine Malfitano,
Plácido Domingo and Ruggero
Raimondi, the performance was broadcast live throughout Europe.
Luciano Pavarotti, who sang Cavaradossi from the late 1970s, appeared
in a special performance in Rome, with
Plácido Domingo as conductor,
on 14 January 2000, to celebrate the opera's centenary.
Pavarotti's last stage performance was as Cavaradossi at the Met, on
13 March 2004.
Early Cavaradossis played the part as if the painter believed that he
was reprieved, and would survive the "mock" execution. Beniamino
Gigli, who performed the role many times in his forty-year operatic
career, was one of the first to assume that the painter knows, or
strongly suspects, that he will be shot. Gigli wrote in his
autobiography: "he is certain that these are their last moments
together on earth, and that he is about to die". Domingo, the
dominant Cavaradossi of the 1970s and 1980s, concurred, stating in a
1985 interview that he had long played the part that way. Gobbi,
who in his later years often directed the opera, commented, "Unlike
Floria, Cavaradossi knows that Scarpia never yields, though he
pretends to believe in order to delay the pain for Tosca."
The enduring popularity of
Tosca has not been matched by consistent
critical enthusiasm. After the premiere, Ippolito Valetta of Nuova
antologia wrote, "[Puccini] finds in his palette all colours, all
shades; in his hands, the instrumental texture becomes completely
supple, the gradations of sonority are innumerable, the blend
unfailingly grateful to the ear." However, one critic
described act 2 as overly long and wordy; another echoed Illica
and Giacosa in stating that the rush of action did not permit enough
lyricism, to the great detriment of the music. A third called the
opera "three hours of noise".
The critics gave the work a generally kinder reception in London,
where The Times called Puccini "a master in the art of poignant
expression", and praised the "wonderful skill and sustained power" of
the music. In The Musical Times, Puccini's score was admired for
its sincerity and "strength of utterance." After the 1903 Paris
opening, the composer
Paul Dukas thought the work lacked cohesion and
Gabriel Fauré was offended by "disconcerting
vulgarities". In the 1950s, the young musicologist Joseph Kerman
Tosca as a "shabby little shocker."; in response the
Thomas Beecham remarked that anything Kerman says about
Puccini "can safely be ignored". Writing half a century after the
premiere, the veteran critic Ernest Newman, while acknowledging the
"enormously difficult business of boiling [Sardou's] play down for
operatic purposes", thought that the subtleties of Sardou's original
plot are handled "very lamely", so that "much of what happens, and
why, is unintelligible to the spectator". Overall, however, Newman
delivered a more positive judgement: "[Puccini's] operas are to some
extent a mere bundle of tricks, but no one else has performed the same
tricks nearly as well".
Julian Budden remarks on
Puccini's "inept handling of the political element", but still hails
the work as "a triumph of pure theatre". Music critic Charles
Osborne ascribes Tosca's immense popularity with audiences to the taut
effectiveness of its melodramatic plot, the opportunities given to its
three leading characters to shine vocally and dramatically, and the
presence of two great arias in "Vissi d'arte" and "E lucevan le
stelle". The work remains popular today: according to Operabase,
it ranks as fifth in the world with 540 performances given in the five
seasons 2009/10 to 2013/14.
The setting for Robert Dornhelm's production of
Tosca at the Opera
Festival of St. Margarethen, 2015
By the end of the 19th century the classic form of opera structure, in
which arias, duets and other set-piece vocal numbers are interspersed
with passages of recitative or dialogue, had been largely abandoned,
even in Italy. Operas were "through-composed", with a continuous
stream of music which in some cases eliminated all identifiable
set-pieces. In what critic
Edward Greenfield calls the "Grand Tune"
concept, Puccini retains a limited number of set-pieces, distinguished
from their musical surroundings by their memorable melodies. Even in
the passages linking these "Grand Tunes", Puccini maintains a strong
degree of lyricism and only rarely resorts to recitative.
Tosca as the most Wagnerian of Puccini's scores, in
its use of musical leitmotifs. Unlike Wagner, Puccini does not develop
or modify his motifs, nor weave them into the music symphonically, but
uses them to refer to characters, objects and ideas, and as reminders
within the narrative. The most potent of these motifs is the
sequence of three very loud and strident chords which open the opera
and which represent the evil character of Scarpia—or perhaps,
Charles Osborne proposes, the violent atmosphere that pervades the
entire opera. Budden has suggested that Scarpia's tyranny, lechery
and lust form "the dynamic engine that ignites the drama". Other
Tosca herself, the love of
Tosca and Cavaradossi, the
fugitive Angelotti, the semi-comical character of the sacristan in act
1 and the theme of torture in act 2.
The opera begins without any prelude; the opening chords of the
Scarpia motif lead immediately to the agitated appearance of Angelotti
and the enunciation of the "fugitive" motif. The sacristan's entry,
accompanied by his sprightly buffo theme, lifts the mood, as does the
generally light-hearted colloquy with Cavaradossi which follows after
the latter's entrance. This leads to the first of the "Grand Tunes",
Cavaradossi's "Recondita armonia" with its sustained high B flat,
accompanied by the sacristan's grumbling counter-melody. The
domination, in that aria, of themes which will be repeated in the love
duet make it clear that though the painting may incorporate the
Tosca is the ultimate inspiration of his
work. Cavaradossi's dialogue with Angelotti is interrupted by
Tosca's arrival, signalled by her motif which incorporates, in
Newman's words, "the feline, caressing cadence so characteristic of
Tosca enters violently and suspiciously, the music
paints her devotion and serenity. According to Budden, there is no
contradiction: Tosca's jealousy is largely a matter of habit, which
her lover does not take too seriously.
After Tosca's "Non la sospiri" and the subsequent argument inspired by
her jealousy, the sensuous character of the love duet "Qual'occhio"
provides what opera writer Burton Fisher describes as "an almost
erotic lyricism that has been called pornophony". The brief scene
in which the sacristan returns with the choristers to celebrate
Napoleon's supposed defeat provides almost the last carefree moments
in the opera; after the entrance of Scarpia to his menacing theme, the
mood becomes sombre, then steadily darker. As the police chief
interrogates the sacristan, the "fugitive" motif recurs three more
times, each time more emphatically, signalling Scarpia's success in
his investigation. In Scarpia's exchanges with
Tosca the sound of
tolling bells, interwoven with the orchestra, creates an almost
religious atmosphere, for which Puccini draws on music from his
then unpublished Mass of 1880. The final scene in the act is a
juxtaposition of the sacred and the profane, as Scarpia's lustful
reverie is sung alongside the swelling
Te Deum chorus. He joins with
the chorus in the final statement "Te aeternum Patrem omnis terra
veneratur" ("Everlasting Father, all the earth worships thee"), before
the act ends with a thunderous restatement of the Scarpia
Emmy Destinn in the role of Tosca, c. 1910
In the second act of Tosca, according to Newman, Puccini rises to his
greatest height as a master of the musical macabre. The act begins
quietly, with Scarpia musing on the forthcoming downfall of Angelotti
and Cavaradossi, while in the background a gavotte is played in a
distant quarter of the Farnese Palace. For this music Puccini adapted
a fifteen-year-old student exercise by his late brother, Michele,
stating that in this way his brother could live again through him.
In the dialogue with Spoletta, the "torture" motif—an "ideogram of
suffering", according to Budden—is heard for the first time as a
foretaste of what is to come. As Cavaradossi is brought in for
interrogation, Tosca's voice is heard with the offstage chorus singing
a cantata, "[its] suave strains contrast[ing] dramatically with the
increasing tension and ever-darkening colour of the stage action".
The cantata is most likely the
Cantata a Giove, in the literature
referred to as a lost work of Puccini's from 1897.
Osborne describes the scenes that follow—Cavaradossi's
interrogation, his torture, Scarpia's sadistic tormenting of
Tosca—as Puccini's musical equivalent of grand guignol to which
Cavaradossi's brief "Vittoria! Vittoria!" on the news of Napoleon's
victory gives only partial relief. Scarpia's aria "Già, mi dicon
venal" ("Yes, they say I am venal") is closely followed by Tosca's
"Vissi d'arte". A lyrical andante based on Tosca's act 1 motif, this
is perhaps the opera's best-known aria, yet was regarded by Puccini as
a mistake; he considered eliminating it since it held up the
action. Fisher calls it "a Job-like prayer questioning God for
punishing a woman who has lived unselfishly and righteously". In
the act's finale, Newman likens the orchestral turmoil which follows
Tosca's stabbing of Scarpia to the sudden outburst after the slow
movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. After Tosca's contemptuous
"E avanti a lui tremava tutta Roma!" ("All Rome trembled before him"),
sung on a middle C♯ monotone  (sometimes spoken), the music
gradually fades, ending what Newman calls "the most impressively
macabre scene in all opera." The final notes in the act are those
of the Scarpia motif, softly, in a minor key.
The execution of Cavaradossi at the end of act 3. Soldiers fire, as
Tosca looks away. Photograph of a pre-1914 production by the
The third act's tranquil beginning provides a brief respite from the
drama. An introductory 16-bar theme for the horns will later be sung
by Cavaradossi and
Tosca in their final duet. The orchestral prelude
which follows portrays the Roman dawn; the pastoral aura is
accentuated by the shepherd boy's song, and the sounds of sheep bells
and church bells, the authenticity of the latter validated by
Puccini's early morning visits to Rome. Themes reminiscent of
Tosca and Cavaradossi emerge in the music, which changes tone
as the drama resumes with Cavaradossi's entrance, to an orchestral
statement of what becomes the melody of his aria "E lucevan le
Mario Cavaradossi (modelled on tenor Giancarlo Monsalve) singing "E
lucevan le stelle" in a painting by Riccardo Manci
This is a farewell to love and life, "an anguished lament and grief
built around the words 'muoio disperato' (I die in despair)".
Puccini insisted on the inclusion of these words, and later stated
that admirers of the aria had treble cause to be grateful to him: for
composing the music, for having the lyrics written, and "for declining
expert advice to throw the result in the waste-paper basket". The
lovers' final duet "Amaro sol per te", which concludes with the act's
opening horn music, did not equate with Ricordi's idea of a
transcendental love duet which would be a fitting climax to the opera.
Puccini justified his musical treatment by citing Tosca's
preoccupation with teaching Cavaradossi to feign death.
In the execution scene which follows, a theme emerges, the incessant
repetition of which reminded Newman of the Transformation Music which
separates the two parts of act 1 in Wagner's Parsifal. In the
final bars, as
Tosca evades Spoletta and leaps to her death, the theme
of "E lucevan le stelle" is played tutta forze (as loudly as
possible). This choice of ending has been strongly criticised by
analysts, mainly because of its specific association with Cavaradossi
rather than Tosca.
Joseph Kerman mocked the final music, "Tosca
leaps, and the orchestra screams the first thing that comes into its
head." Budden, however, argues that it is entirely logical to end
this dark opera on its blackest theme. According to historian and
former opera singer Susan Vandiver Nicassio: "The conflict between the
verbal and the musical clues gives the end of the opera a twist of
controversy that, barring some unexpected discovery among Puccini's
papers, can never truly be resolved."
List of arias and set numbers
Enrico Caruso, 1908
Act 1 finale
Pasquale Amato, as Scarpia, performs the act 1 finale with the
Opera chorus, in this 1914 recording for the Victor
Talking Machine Company. (From "Tre sbirri, una carrozza" to the end
of the act.)
Emmy Destinn, 1914
"E lucevan le stelle"
Leo Slezak in 1913 for Edison Records
"Gia mi dicon venal"
Antonio Scotti in 1908 for Victor Records
Problems playing these files? See media help.
"Non la sospiri, la nostra casetta"
("Do you not long for our little house")
("What eyes in the world")
Te Deum laudamus
("We praise thee, O God")
"Ha più forte sapore"
("For myself the violent conquest")
"Già, mi dicon venal"
("Yes, they say that I am venal")
("I lived for art, I lived for love")
"Io de' sospiri"
("I give you sighs")
Voice of a shepherd boy
"E lucevan le stelle"
("And the stars shone")
"O dolci mani"
("Oh, sweet hands")
"Amaro sol per te m'era il morire"
("Only for you did death taste bitter for me")
The first complete
Tosca recording was made in 1918, using the
acoustic process. The conductor, Carlo Sabajno, had been the
Gramophone Company's house conductor since 1904; he had made early
complete recordings of several operas, including Verdi's La traviata
and Rigoletto, before tackling
Tosca with a largely unknown cast,
featuring the Italian soprano Lya Remondini in the title role. The
next year, in 1919, Sabajno recorded
Tosca again, this time with more
well-known singers, including
Valentina Bartolomasi and Attilio
Tosca and Cavaradossi. Ten years later, in 1929,
Sabajno returned to the opera for the third time, recording it, by the
electrical process, with the orchestra and chorus of the Teatro alla
Scala and with stars
Carmen Melis and
Apollo Granforte in the roles of
Tosca and Scarpia. In 1938
HMV secured the services of the
renowned tenor Beniamino Gigli, together with the soprano Maria
Tosca and conductor Oliviero De Fabritiis, for a
"practically complete" recording that extended over 14 double-sided
In the post-war period, following the invention of long-playing
Tosca recordings were dominated by Maria Callas. In 1953,
Victor de Sabata
Victor de Sabata and the
La Scala forces, she made the
EMI which for decades has been considered the best of
all the recorded performances of the opera. She recorded the
role again for
EMI in stereo in 1964. A number of Callas's live stage
Tosca were also preserved. The earliest were two
performances in Mexico City, in 1950 and 1952, and the last was in
London in 1965. The first stereo recording of the opera was made
in 1957 by RCA Victor.
Erich Leinsdorf conducted the Rome
orchestra and chorus with
Zinka Milanov as Tosca,
Jussi Björling as
Leonard Warren as Scarpia. Herbert von Karajan's
acclaimed performance with the Vienna State
Opera was in 1963, with
Giuseppe Di Stefano
Giuseppe Di Stefano and
Giuseppe Taddei in the leading
The 1970s and 1980s saw a proliferation of recordings, many of live
Plácido Domingo first recorded Cavaradossi in 1973, and
continued to do so at regular intervals until 1994. In 1976 he was
joined by his son,
Plácido Domingo Jr., who sang the shepherd boy's
song in a British recording with the New Philharmonia Orchestra. More
recent commended recordings have included Antonio Pappano's 2000 Royal
Opera House version with Angela Gheorghiu,
Roberto Alagna and Ruggero
Raimondi. Recordings of
Tosca in languages other than Italian are
rare but not unknown; over the years versions in French, German,
Spanish, Hungarian and Russian have been issued. An admired
English language version was released in 1995 in which David Parry led
Philharmonia Orchestra and a largely British cast. Since the
late 1990s numerous video recordings of the opera have been issued on
DVD and Blu-ray disc (BD). These include recent productions and
remastered versions of historic performances.
Editions and amendments
The orchestral score of
Tosca was published in late 1899 by Casa
Ricordi. Despite some dissatisfaction expressed by Ricordi concerning
the final act, the score remained relatively unchanged in the 1909
edition. An unamended edition was published by
Dover Press in
The 1909 score contains a number of minor changes from the autograph
score. Some are changes of phrase: Cavaradossi's reply to the
sacristan when he asks if the painter is doing penance is changed from
"Pranzai" ("I have eaten.") to "Fame non ho" ("I am not
William Ashbrook states, in his study of Puccini's
operas, accentuates the class distinction between the two. When Tosca
comforts Cavaradossi after the torture scene, she now tells him, "Ma
il giusto Iddio lo punirá" ("But a just God will punish him"
[Scarpia]); formerly she stated, "Ma il sozzo sbirro lo pagherà"
("But the filthy cop will pay for it."). Other changes are in the
Tosca demands the price for Cavaradossi's freedom ("Il
prezzo!"), her music is changed to eliminate an octave leap, allowing
her more opportunity to express her contempt and loathing of Scarpia
in a passage which is now near the middle of the soprano vocal
range. A remnant of a "Latin Hymn" sung by
Tosca and Cavaradossi
in act 3 survived into the first published score and libretto, but is
not in later versions. According to Ashbrook, the most surprising
change is where, after
Tosca discovers the truth about the "mock"
execution and exclaims "Finire così? Finire così?" ("To end like
this? To end like this?"), she was to sing a five-bar fragment to the
melody of "E lucevan le stelle". Ashbrook applauds Puccini for
deleting the section from a point in the work where delay is almost
unendurable as events rush to their conclusion, but points out that
the orchestra's recalling "E lucevan le stelle" in the final notes
would seem less incongruous if it was meant to underscore Tosca's and
Cavaradossi's love for each other, rather than being simply a melody
Tosca never hears.
^ a b Kerman, p. 205
^ Walsh, Stephen. "Tosca, Longborough Festival". theartsdesk.com.
Retrieved 16 January 2015.
^ Nicassio, p. 11
^ Nicassio, pp. 12–13
^ Budden, p. 181
^ Fisher, p. 21
^ Phillips-Matz, pp. 106–107
^ Philips-Matz, pp. 107–108
^ a b c d Phillips-Matz, p. 109
^ Budden, pp. 182–183
^ Nicassio, p. 17
^ a b Phillips-Matz, p. 18
^ a b "Tosca: Performance history". Stanford University. Retrieved 27
^ Osborne, p. 115
^ Fisher, p. 31
^ Burton, p. 86
^ Nicassio, pp. 32–34
^ Nicassio, p. 35
^ Nicassio, p. 46
^ Nicassio, pp. 48–49
^ Nicassio, pp. 169–170
^ Nicassio, p. 47
^ Nicassio, pp. 204–205
^ Nicassio, p. 18
^ Phillips-Matz, p. 112
^ Nicassio, pp. 272–274
^ a b Nicassio, p. 227
^ a b c d Fisher, p. 23
^ a b Budden, p. 185
^ Budden, p. 189
^ a b c Phillips-Matz, p. 115
^ a b Fisher, pp. 20, 23
^ Burton, p. 278
^ Nicassio, p. 306
^ a b c d Osborne, p. 139
^ a b Budden, p. 194
^ Budden, pp. 194–195
^ Budden, p. 195
^ Phillips-Matz, p. 116
^ a b Budden, p. 197
^ Casaglia, Gherardo (2005). "Tosca, 14 January 1900".
L'Almanacco di Gherardo Casaglia (in Italian).
^ a b c d e Phillips-Matz, p. 118
^ a b Budden, p. 198
^ a b Ashbrook, p. 77
^ Greenfeld, H. pp. 122–123
^ a b Budden, p. 199
^ Phillips-Matz, p. 120
^ Budden, p. 225
^ Greenfeld, H. pp. 138–139
Emmy Destinn (1878–1930)". The Kapralova Society. Retrieved 3
^ a b c Neef (ed.), pp. 462–467
^ Phillips-Matz, p. 121
^ Petsalēs-Diomēdēs, pp. 291–293
^ a b Hamilton, Frank (2009). "Maria Callas: Performance Annals and
Discography" (PDF). frankhamilton.org. Retrieved 3 July 2010.
^ Girardi, pp. 192–193
^ "Tosca, Bregenzer Festspiele – Seebühne". The Financial Times. 30
July 2007. Retrieved 12 July 2010.
^ O'Connor, John J. (1 January 1993). "A 'Tosca' performed on actual
location". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 July 2010.
^ Forbes, Elizabeth (7 September 2007). "Luciano Pavarotti
(Obituary)". The Independent. Retrieved 3 July 2010.
^ a b c Nicassio, pp. 241–242
^ Valetta (1900). "Rassegna Musicale". Nuova Antologia. 85 of
^ Phillips-Matz, p. 119
^ Greenfeld, H. pp. 125–126
^ "The Royal Opera: Puccini's opera La Tosca". The Musical Times.
London: 536–537. 1 August 1900.
^ Greenfeld, H., pp. 125–126, 138–139
^ Carner, Mosco, Puccini: a Critical Biography, Gerald Duckworth, 1958
^ Newman, pp. 188, 230–231
^ Newman (1958), p. 465
^ a b c Budden, p. 222
^ Osborne, p. 143
^ "Statistics 2013/14", Operabase
^ Greenfield, pp. 148–150
^ a b Fisher, pp. 27–28
^ a b Osborne, pp. 137–138
^ a b Budden, Julian. "Tosca". Oxford Music Online. Retrieved 28 June
2010. (subscription required)
^ a b c d Fisher, pp. 33–35
^ Burton, p. 201
^ Newman. p. 114
^ Budden, p. 203
^ a b Fisher, p. 20
^ Budden, p. 207
^ Newman, p. 191
^ Newman, p. 221
^ Newman, p. 235
^ a b Burton, pp. 130–131
^ Budden, p. 212
^ Newman, pp. 233–234
^ a b c d Osborne, pp. 140–143
^ Greenfield, p. 136
^ Budden, p. 216
^ Newman, p. 244
^ In the first edition the line was recited later, on the D♯ before
rehearsal 65. See Appendix 2g (Ricordi 1995, p. LXIV)
^ Newman, p. 245
^ Budden, p. 217
^ Fisher, p. 26
^ Ashbrook, p. 82
^ Newman, p. 150
^ a b Nicassio, pp. 253–254
^ a b "There are 250 recordings of
Giacomo Puccini on file".
Operadis. Retrieved 30 June 2010.
^ Gaisberg, F.W. (June 1944). "The Recording of Tosca". Gramophone.
London: Haymarket. p. 15. Retrieved 30 June 2010.
^ "Complete Recordings of Two Puccini Operas:
Tosca and Turandot".
Gramophone. London: Haymarket. December 1938. p. 23. Retrieved 30
June 2010. (subscription required)
^ a b c Roberts, pp. 761–762
^ Greenfield et al. (1993), pp. 314–318
^ Hope-Wallace, Philip (February 1960). "Puccini:
Gramophone. London: Haymarket. p. 71. Retrieved 30 June
2010. (subscription required)
Tosca (Sung in English)". Gramophone. London: Haymarket.
June 1996. p. 82. Retrieved 30 June 2010. (subscription
DVD videos, Puccini's Tosca". Presto Classical. Retrieved 12 July
^ "Tosca". University of Rochester. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
Tosca in Full Score". Dover Publications.
^ Tosca, revised vocal score by Rodger Parker (Ricordi 1995), critical
notes on p. XL
^ Ashbrook, pp. 92–93
^ Nicassio, p. 245
^ Ashbrook, p. 93
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tosca.
Tosca: Scores at the
International Music Score Library Project
International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP)
Full piano score with notes
Susan Vandiver Nicassio: "Ten Things You Didn't Know about Tosca",
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