Metropolitan Opera Live in HD Broadcast: Tosca
Transmission of Saturday, November 9, 2013, 12:55 P.M.
George Gagnidze, as Scarpia, in Tosca at the Met
© Johan Elbers 2013
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Music by Giacomo Puccini
Libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica, after the play by Victorien Sardou
THE CAST (in order of vocal appearance)
Angelotti bass, RICHARD BERNSTEIN
Sacristan bass-bar., JOHN DEL CARLO
Cavaradossi tenor, ROBERTO ALAGNA
Floria Tosca soprano, PATRICIA RACETTE
Baron Scarpia bar., GEORGE GAGNIDZE
Spoletta tenor, EDUARDO VALDES
Sciarrone bass-bar., JAMES COURTNEY
Shepherd treble, TBA
Jailer bass-bar., RYAN SPEEDO GREEN
Conducted by RICCARDO FRIZZA
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
The Metropolitan Opera Chorus
Production: Luc Bondy
Set designer: Richard Peduzzi
Costume designer: Milena Canonero
Lighting designer: Max Keller
|Stage director: Paula Williams
Chorus master: Donald Palumbo
Musical preparation: Steven Eldredge,
Pierre Vallet, Carrie-Ann Matheson,
Assistant stage director: Eric Einhorn
Children's chorus director: Anthony Piccolo
Stage band conductor: Gregory Buchalter
Italian coach: Hemdi Kfir
Prompter: Carrie-Ann Matheson
Production a gift of
The Annenberg Foundation
Coproduction of the Metropolitan Opera;
Teatro alla Scala, Milan; and
Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich
Directed for Live Cinema by:
HD host: Renée Fleming
Patricia Racette and Roberto Alagna in Tosca at the Met
© Johan Elbers 2013
Victorien Sardou's 1887 melodrama La Tosca, created as a vehicle for actress Sarah Bernhardt, was the inspiration for Puccini's Tosca, which had its world premiere at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome on January 14, 1900. The title role of Floria Tosca, a temperamental diva in early-nineteenth-century Rome, was created by Romanian soprano Hariclea Darclée (1860–1939), who also originated the title roles in Mascagni's Iris (1899) and Catalani's Wally (1892).
Although Darclée sang the successful first performances of Tosca in Milan and Turin, the prestigious London premiere starred her rival Milka Ternina (1863–1941), a Croatian dramatic soprano whose Floria Tosca was pronounced "ideal" by Puccini. Ternina was the diva in Tosca's first U.S. performance, at the Metropolitan Opera, on February 4, 1901.
The artist most associated with Tosca during the first thirty years of its life at the Met was Neapolitan baritone Antonio Scotti (1866–1936), the first Baron Scarpia in London as well as in New York. For three decades, a performance of Tosca at the Met without Scotti was nearly unthinkable. Scotti's 217 performances of Scarpia between 1901 and 1931 stand as a record for a principal artist in a single role at the Met.
The Met's current production of Tosca, by director Luc Bondy, had its first performance on opening night of the 2009–10 season, with James Levine pacing Karita Mattila, Marcelo Álvarez and George Gagnidze in the leading roles.
ACT I. Cesare Angelotti, an escaped political
prisoner, runs into the church of Sant'Andrea della Valle to hide in the
family chapel. The Sacristan enters to pray and is interrupted by the
painter Mario Cavaradossi, who has come to work on his portrait of Mary
Magdalene — inspired by the Marchesa Attavanti, Angelotti's sister.
Cavaradossi contrasts the beauty of the blond marchesa with that of his
lover, the raven-haired singer Floria Tosca. When the Sacristan leaves,
Angelotti ventures out and is recognized by the painter, who gives him
food and hurries him back into the chapel as Tosca is heard outside. She
jealously questions Cavaradossi, then prays and reminds him of their
rendezvous that evening. When she recognizes the marchesa's likeness,
her suspicions are renewed, but he reassures her. When she has left,
Cavaradossi summons Angelotti, as a cannon signals that the police have
discovered the escape; the two flee to Cavaradossi's villa. The
Sacristan returns with choirboys who are about to sing a Te Deum. Their
excitement is silenced by the entrance of Baron Scarpia, chief of the
secret police, in search of Angelotti. When Tosca returns looking for
her lover, Scarpia shows her the Attavanti crest on a fan he has found.
Thinking Cavaradossi faithless, Tosca tearfully vows vengeance and
leaves, as the church resounds with the Te Deum. Scarpia has the diva
trailed, scheming to get her in his power.
Tosca (Racette) stands over the dying Scarpia
© Cory Weaver/Metropolitan Opera 2012
ACT II. In the Farnese Palace, Scarpia anticipates
the pleasure of bending Tosca to his will. The spy Spoletta arrives;
having failed to find Angelotti, he placates the baron by bringing in
Cavaradossi, who is interrogated while Tosca is heard singing at a royal
gala downstairs. She enters as her lover is led away to be tortured.
Unnerved by his screams, she reveals Angelotti's hiding place.
Cavaradossi is carried in; realizing what has happened, he rages at
Tosca. When the gendarme Sciarrone rushes in to announce that Napoleon
has won the Battle of Marengo, a defeat for Scarpia's side, Cavaradossi
shouts his defiance and is dragged to prison. Scarpia suggests Tosca
yield to him in exchange for her lover's life. Fighting him off, she
protests her fate to God, saying she has dedicated her life to art and
love. Spoletta interrupts: faced with capture, Angelotti has killed
himself. Tosca accepts Scarpia's proposition. The baron orders a mock
execution, and Spoletta leaves. Scarpia prepares a document of
safe-conduct for the lovers. When he embraces her, Tosca stabs him with a
knife from the table and slips out.
Tosca (Sondra Radvanovsky) after she murders Scarpia
© Beth Bergman 2012
ACT III. A Shepherd is heard singing as church bells
toll the dawn. Cavaradossi is led to the roof of Castel Sant'Angelo to
await execution; he bribes the jailer to convey a farewell note to
Tosca. Writing it, overcome with memories of love, he gives way to
despair. Suddenly Tosca runs in with the story of her encounter with
Scarpia. Cavaradossi caresses the hands that committed murder for his
sake, and the two hail the future. As the firing squad appears, the diva
coaches her lover on how to fake his death convincingly; the soldiers
fire and depart. Tosca urges Cavaradossi to hurry, but when he doesn't
respond, she discovers Scarpia's treachery: the bullets were real.
Spoletta rushes in to arrest Tosca. She climbs the battlements and,
crying that she will meet Scarpia before God, leaps to her death.
atricia Racette as Tosca in Luc
Bondy's Metropolitan Opera staging
© Cory Weaver/Metropolitan Opera 2012
Giacomo Puccini, the only Italian composer after Verdi to achieve
lasting success with opera after opera, was born into a musical family
in Lucca, near Florence. It was mainly at his mother's urging that he
studied music as a young man. When he heard Aida — then still a
novelty — he recognized the lyric theater as his calling and got a
scholarship to study at the Milan Conservatory with Antonio Bazzini and
After the lyricism of Le Villi and La Bohème and the romance of Edgar and Manon Lescaut, Puccini felt ready for a full-blooded melodrama. In Tosca he succeeded so vividly that the score remains a prototype of its kind. As with Manon Lescaut and Bohème, Puccini lighted on a text already chosen by a rival composer, in this case Alberto Franchetti.
Puccini had to face a temperamental playwright, Victorien Sardou, sixty-five-year-old dean of the French theater and author of La Tosca.
Sardou not only exacted an exorbitant fee but inundated Puccini with
unsolicited advice. The composer had even more trouble with his
librettists, Illica and Giacosa; the former had written on the lengthy
side and refused to cut, while the latter found the melodrama lacking in
poetry. Puccini had his way, eliminating two of Sardou's five acts.
A restless atmosphere preceded Tosca's world premiere, in
Rome on January 14, 1900. The public was skeptical of a local subject
set by an out-of-towner. Despite a bomb scare and a near-riot instigated
by disgruntled latecomers trying to get seated, Tosca was
performed — by Romanian diva Hariclea Darclée, tenor Emilio de Marchi
and baritone Eugenio Giraldoni, with Leopoldo Mugnone conducting. The
reception was mixed, but the opera soon established itself. The U.S.
premiere, at the Met (Feb. 4, 1901), starred Milka Ternina, Giuseppe
Cremonini and Antonio Scotti, with Luigi Mancinelli on the podium.
The Met's present production, by Luc Bondy, was unveiled on September
21, 2009, with James Levine pacing Karita Mattila, Marcelo Álvarez and
WHAT TO READ AND HEAR
Susan Vandiver Nicassio's Tosca's Rome: The Play and the Opera in Historical Perspective (University
of Chicago) offers an insightful comparison between the worlds of
Puccini, playwright Victorien Sardou and Napoleonic-era history. Also
eminently useful are Mary Jane Phillips-Matz's Puccini: A Biography (Northeastern) and Julian Budden's Puccini: His Life and Works (Oxford).
Jonas Kaufmann offers "E lucevan le stelle" on his Romantic Arias recital (Decca); Bryn Terfel includes Scarpia among the villains on his new Bad Boys
disc (DG). Victor de Sabata's 1953 recording, with Maria Callas,
Giuseppe di Stefano and Tito Gobbi in magnificent form, is one of the
glories of the EMI catalogue. Leontyne Price is a glowing, vulnerable
Tosca in Herbert von Karajan's 1963 recording with the Vienna
Philharmonic (Decca). Of recorded Scarpias, Sherrill Milnes is the most
convincingly virile (Decca), notably in his Act II confrontation with
Mirella Freni's womanly Tosca, who at times seems ready to forsake
Luciano Pavarotti's bright Mario.
The tight-focus drama of Tosca has made it a near-ideal
opera for television and video. On DVD, Terfel is Scarpia in an
unconventional Netherlands Opera staging (DG). In the 1985 broadcast of
the Met's Franco Zeffirelli production, conducted by Giuseppe Sinopoli,
Plácido Domingo's superb Cavaradossi woos the energetic Tosca of
Hildegard Behrens (DG).
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