In three acts by V. SARDOU, L. ILLICA and G. GIACOSA.
Music by GIACOMO PUCCINI.
The libretto of this opera is adapted from Sardou's tragedy of the same
name; it possesses all the exquisite stage effects of which this writer
is capable. It is based on fact; these most tragic events having
actually taken place in Rome in 1800 at the time of the battle of
The music far surpasses the libretto, although the latter handles
the dreadful facts with as much delicacy as possible.
Puccini may fairly be called the most gifted among Italian composers.
In Tosca especially he has shown the ennobling influence of music over
an otherwise repulsive theme. The lovely melodies inspire us with a
warm interest in all the persons of the play, with the exception of
Scarpia, that living incarnation of evil and corruption. The leading
melodies that introduce Scarpia are almost brutal in their tone; the
three intervals of B flat, A flat and E which accompany Scarpia from
the beginning through the whole drama sound hard and inexorable like
fate, and form a striking contrast to the songs of the two lovers,
whose duet in the third act is one of the sweetest things ever written.
The scene is laid in Rome. The first act takes place in the church of
Sant' Andrea della Valle. Cesare Angelotti a state-prisoner has
escaped from gaol and is hiding in a private chapel of which his
sister, the Lady Attavanti, has secretly sent him the key.
When he has disappeared from view the painter Cavaradossi enters the
church. He is engaged in painting a picture to represent Mary
Magdalen; the canvass stands on a high easel and the sacristan, who is
prowling about, recognizes with scandalized amazement and indignation
that the sacred picture resembles a beautiful lady, who comes to pray
daily in the church. The old man, after having left a basket
with food for the painter, retires grumbling at this sacrilege.
When he is gone Angelotti comes forward, and the painter recognizing in
the prisoner the Consul of the late Roman Republic who is at the same
time an intimate friend of his own, puts himself at his disposal, but
hearing the voice of his fiancee Tosca, who demands entrance he begs
the prisoner, a victim of the vile Scarpia, to retire into the chapel,
giving him the refreshments, which the sacristan has left.
At last he opens the church-door, and Tosca, a famous singer enters
looking suspiciously around her, for she is of a jealous disposition.
She begs her lover to wait for her at the stage door in the evening.
He assents and tries to get rid of her, when her suspicions are
reawakened by the sight of the picture, which she sees is a portrait of
the Lady Attavanti. With difficulty he succeeds in persuading her of
his undying love and at last induces her to depart; he then enters the
chapel, and urges Angelotti to fly, while the way is clear. The chapel
opens into a deserted garden from whence a foot-path leads to the
painter's villa, in which there is a well now nearly dry. Into this
well the painter advises Angelotti to descend if there is any danger of
pursuit, as half way down there is an opening leading to a secret cave
where his friend will be in perfect safety.
The Lady Attavanti had left a woman's clothes for her brother, to wear
as a disguise. He takes them up and turns to go, when the report
of a cannon tells him that his flight from the fortress is discovered.
With sudden resolution Cavaradossi decides to accompany the fugitive,
to help him to escape from his terrible enemy.
In the next scene acolytes, scholars and singers enter the church
tumultuously. They have heard that Napoleon has been defeated and all
are shouting and laughing, when Scarpia, the chief of the Police enters
in search of the fugitive. Turning to the sacristan he demands to be
shown the chapel of the Attavanti, which to the amazement of the
sacristan is found open. It is empty, but Scarpia finds a fan, on
which he perceives the arms of the Attavanti, then he sees the picture
and hears that Tosca's lover, Cavaradossi has painted it. The basket
with food is also found, empty. During the discussion that ensues,
Tosca enters, much astonished to find Scarpia here instead of her
lover. The chief of the police awakens her jealousy by showing her the
fan, which he pretends to have found on the scaffolding. Tosca,
recognizing the arms of the Attavanti is goaded almost to madness by
the wily Scarpia. When she departs three spies are ordered to follow
The second act takes place in Scarpia's luxurious apartments in an
upper story of the Farnese palace.
Scarpia is expecting Tosca, who is to sing this evening at the Queen's
festival. He has decided to take her for his Mistress, and to put her
lover to death as well as Angelotti, as soon as he has got hold
of both. Spoletta, a police-agent informs his chief, that he followed
Tosca to a solitary villa which she left again, alone, very soon after
she had entered it.
Forcing his way into the villa he had only found the painter
Cavaradossi whom he had at once arrested and brought to the palace.
Cavaradossi who is now brought in, denies resolutely any knowledge of
the escaped prisoner. When Tosca enters he embraces her, whispering
into her ear not to betray anything she had witnessed in his villa.
Meanwhile Scarpia has called for Roberts, the executioner, and Mario is
led into the torture chamber that adjoins Scarpia's apartment. Scarpia
vainly questions Tosca about her visit to the villa; she assures him,
that she found her lover alone. Then she hears her lover's groans,
which are growing more fearful, the torture under Scarpia's directions
being applied with more and more violence. In the intervals Mario
however entreats Tosca to be silent, but at last she can bear no more,
and gasps "In the well, in the garden." Scarpia at once gives a signal
to stop the torture and Mario is carried in fainting and covered with
blood. When he comes to himself he hears Scarpia say to Spoletta "In
the well, in the garden," and thereby finds out that Tosca has betrayed
the unfortunate prisoner. While he turns from her in bitter grief and
indignation, Sciarrone enters and announces in the greatest
consternation, that the news of victory have proved false, Napoleon
having beaten the Italian army at Marengo. Mario exults in the defeat
of his enemy, but the latter turns to him with an evil smile and orders
the gendarmes to take him away to his death. Tosca tries to follow
him, but Scarpia detains her. Remaining alone with him, she offers him
all her treasures and at last kneels to him imploring him to save her
lover. But the villain only shows her the scaffold which is being
erected on the square below, swearing that he will only save her lover
if she will be his. Tosca turns shuddering from him. Spoletta now
enters to announce that Angelotti being found and taken has killed
himself; and that Mario is ready for death.
Now at last Tosca yields, Scarpia promising to liberate her lover at
the price of her honour. He suggests however that Mario must be
supposed dead, and that a farce must be acted, in which the prisoner is
to pretend to fall dead while only blank cartridges will be used for
firing. Tosca begs to be allowed to warn him herself and Scarpia
consents and orders Spoletta to accompany her to the prison at 4
o'clock in the morning, after having given the spy private instructions
to have Mario really shot after all. Spoletta retires and Scarpia
approaches Tosca to claim his reward. But she stops him, asking for a
safe conduct for herself and her lover. While Scarpia is writing it
Tosca seizes a knife from the table while leaning against it and hides
the weapon behind her back. Scarpia seals the passport, then
opening his arms he says: "Now Tosca, mine at last." But he staggers
back with an awful scream; Tosca has suddenly plunged the knife deep
into his breast. Before he can call for help, death overtakes him, and
Tosca after having taken the passport from the clenched fist of the
dead man turns to fly.
The third act takes place on the platform of the castle Sant' Angelo.
The gaoler informs Mario Cavaradossi that he may ask for a last favour
having only one hour to live and the captive begs to be allowed to send
a last letter of farewell to his fiancee. The gaoler assents, and
Mario sits down to write, but soon the sweet recollections of the past
overcome him. Tosca finds him in bitter tears, which soon give way to
joy, when she shows him her passport, granting a free pass to Tosca and
to the Chevalier who will accompany her.
When she tells him of the deadly deed she has done to procure it, he
kisses the hands that were stained with blood for his sake. Then she
informs him of the farce, which is to be acted, and begs him to fall
quite naturally after the first shot, and to remain motionless until
she shall call him. After a while the gaoler reminds them that the
hour is over. The soldiers march up and Tosca places herself to the
left of the guard's room, in order to face her lover. The latter
refuses to have his eyes bandaged, and bravely stands erect before the
soldiers. The officer lowers his sword, a report follows and
Tosca seeing her lover fall sends him a kiss. When one of the
sergeants is about to give the "coup de grace" to the fallen man
Spoletta prevents him, and covers Mario with a cloak. Tosca remains
quiet until the last soldier has descended the steps of the staircase,
then she runs to her lover, calling to him, to rise. As he does not
move, she bends down to him and tears the cloak off, but with a
terrible cry she staggers back. Her lover is dead! She bewails him in
the wildest grief, when suddenly she hears the voice of Sciarrone, and
knows that Scarpia's murder has been discovered. A crowd rushes up the
stairs with Spoletta at their head; the latter is about to precipitate
himself upon Tosca, but she runs to the parapet and throws herself into
space, with the cry: "Scarpia, may God judge between us!"
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