Broadcast

Metropolitan Opera Live in HD Broadcast: Tosca 

Transmission of Saturday, November 9, 2013, 12:55 P.M.

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George Gagnidze, as Scarpia, in Tosca at the Met
© Johan Elbers 2013
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Tosca
 
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,
     Carol Isaac
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:
     Matthew Diamond
HD host: Renée Fleming

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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.

THE STORY 

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.  

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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.

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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.

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P atricia Racette as Tosca in Luc
Bondy's Metropolitan Opera staging
of Tosca

© Cory Weaver/Metropolitan Opera 2012

THE BACKGROUND 

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 Amilcare Ponchielli.

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 George Gagnidze.

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). spacer

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