Saturday, August 13, 2011
Hempstead House on the Sands Point Preserve, Long Island NY
Music by Giacomo Puccini; libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica, based on the drama La Tosca by Victorien Sardou. Sung in Italian.
- Floria Tosca: Samia Bahu
- Mario Cavaradossi: Adam Klein
- Baron Scarpia: Daniel Klein
- Cesare Angelotti: Mark Fitzgerald Wilson
- Scaristan: Masami Morimoto
- Spoletta: George Kasarjian
- Sciarrone: John Torres
- Jailer: Mark Fitzgerald Wilson
- Sheperdess: Lindsay Meyer
Often praised as Puccini’s most beloved opera, Tosca is a fiery blend of lust, passion and agony, interpreted through some of the most beautiful and chilling melodies ever composed. The setting is political upheaval in Rome; the plot involves Mario Cavaradossi, a secret revolutionary and painter, who tries to help a fleeing captive—and is himself captured. Set on saving her lover from the firing squad, the enchanting and famous Floria appeals to the villainous Baron Scarpia…who requires an unthinkable price.
Setting: Rome, 1800
The Napoleonic Wars have already begun. Rome has become a chess piece for warring foreign powers.
Scene: Inside the Church of Sant’Andrea della Valle
Angelotti, former consul of the Roman Republic and then a political prisoner, has escaped from prison . He runs into the church and hides in the Attavanti private chapel (his sister is the Marchesa Attavanti). The painter Mario Cavaradossi arrives to continue work on his picture of the Madonna. He exchanges banter with an elderly Sacristan before singing of the “hidden harmony” Recondita armonia in the contrast between the blonde beauty of his painting and that of 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 royalist police chief Scarpia. Cavaradossi promises to assist him, then Angelotti hurriedly returns to his hiding place as Tosca arrives. After suspicious inquiries of the painter about what he has been doing, Tosca sings of her desire for a night of mutual passion, Non la sospiri, la nostra casetta (“Do you not long for our little house”). She then expresses jealousy over the woman in the painting, whom she recognizes as the Marchesa. Cavaradossi explains the likeness; he has merely observed the Marchesa at prayer in the church. He reassures Tosca of his fidelity before she leaves. Angelotti reappears, and discusses with the painter his plan to flee disguised as a woman, using clothes that will be left in the chapel by his sister.
The sound of a cannon signals that Angelotti’s escape has been discovered. As he and Cavaradossi rapidly leave the church, the sacristan reenters with groups of choristers, celebrating the news that Napoleon has apparently been defeated at Marengo. The celebrations cease abruptly with the entry of Scarpia, who is searching for Angelotti. He questions the sacristan, and his suspicions are aroused when he learns that Cavaradossi has been in the church; Scarpia mistrusts the painter, and believes him complicit in Angelotti’s escape. When Tosca arrives looking for her lover, Scarpia artfully arouses her jealous instincts by implying a relationship between the painter and the Marchesa. He draws Tosca’s attention to a woman’s fan, found in the chapel, and suggests that someone must have surprised the lovers there. Tosca falls for his deceit; enraged, she rushes off to confront Cavaradossi. Scarpia orders his agents to follow her, assuming she will lead them to Cavaradossi and Angelotti. Privately, he gloats as he reveals his intentions to ravish Tosca and hang Cavaradossi. A procession enters the church singing the Te Deum. Scarpia’s reverie is broken and he joins the chorus in the prayer.
Scene: Scarpia’s apartment in the Palazzo Farnese, that evening
At supper, Scarpia sends a note to Tosca asking her to join him. His henchman Spoletta announces the arrest of Cavaradossi, who is brought in to be questioned about where Angelotti can be found. As the painter is questioned, the voice of Tosca can be heard, singing in a celebratory cantata offstage,. Cavaradossi denies knowing anything about the escape, and after Tosca arrives, he is taken to an antechamber to be tortured. He is able to speak briefly with her, warning her to say nothing. Scarpia then tells Tosca that she can save her lover from indescribable pain if she reveals Angelotti’s hiding place. Tosca resists, but hearing Cavaradossi’s cries of pain, eventually yields the secret.
Cavaradossi is brought back to the apartment where he recovers consciousness, and learning of Tosca’s betrayal, is initially furious with her. Then news arrives of Napoleon’s victory at Marengo; Cavaradossi gives a defiant “victory” shout before being taken away. Scarpia, left with Tosca, proposes a bargain: if she gives herself to him, Cavaradossi will be freed. She is revolted, and repeatedly rejects his advances. She hears the drums outside that announce an execution; as Scarpia awaits her decision, she sings a fervent prayer Vissi d’arte (“I lived for art, I lived for love, never did I harm a living creature…why, O Lord, why did you repay me thus?”). Scarpia remains adamant despite her pleas. When Spoletta brings news that Angelotti has killed himself, Scarpia announces that Cavaradossi must face a firing squad the next morning. He tells Tosca that if she will submit to him, he will arrange for this to be a mock execution. Although Scarpia tells his minion that the execution is to be only simulated, he stresses that it will be “as we did with Count Palmieri.” Spoletta responds to Scarpia that he understands his instructions. Tosca, in despair, agrees to Scarpia’s plan on the condition that Scarpia will provide a safe-conduct document for herself and her lover. Scarpia assents, and signs the paper. As he approaches to embrace her, Tosca stabs him to death with a knife she has taken from the supper table. After cursing him and taking the safe-conduct pass, she lights candles and places a crucifix on the body in a gesture of piety before leaving quietly.
Scene: The upper parts of the Castel Sant’Angelo, early the following morning
A shepherd boy sings Io de’ sospiri (“I give you sighs”) as church bells sound for morning prayers. In the Castel, Cavaradossi is informed that he has one hour to live. He refuses the offer of a priest but receives permission to write a letter, which he begins—but is soon overwhelmed by his memories of Tosca: E lucevanle stelle (“And the stars shone”). Tosca enters and shows him the safe-conduct. She reveals that she has killed Scarpia, and that the imminent execution will be a sham; Cavaradossi must feign death, but afterwards they can leave Rome together, quickly, before the discovery of Scarpia’s body. Cavaradossi is amazed at the courage shown by one so tender: O dolci mani (“Oh sweet hands pure and gentle”). The lovers sing of the life they will share, though Tosca is worried whether Cavaradossi can play his part convincingly in the mock execution.
Cavaradossi is led away, and Tosca watches with increasing impatience as the final rituals are carried out. After a volley of shots, Cavaradossi falls. When all of the soldiers have left, she hurries towards Cavaradossi, and finds that he is dead. Scarpia has betrayed his promise. Heartbroken, she throws herself across the body. Off-stage voices reveal that Scarpia’s body has been found, and Tosca’s guilt is known. As Spoletta and the soldiers rush in, Tosca rises, evades their clutches, and runs to the parapet. With a last cry that Scarpia will answer to his crimes before God, she hurls herself over the edge.