Music by Giacomo Puccini
Libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica after Sardou
First performed: 1900
Rome, June 1800
Napoleon has invaded Italy, and news is expected of the outcome of the battle of Marengo. The Queen of Naples is in Rome, where she has installed the corrupt Baron Scarpia as chief of police.
The church of Sant’Andrea della Valle
Angelotti, a republican from Naples and former Consul of the Roman republic, has escaped from the fortress-prison of Castel Sant’Angelo. He finds the key which his sister, the Marchesa Attavanti, has left for him and hides in the private chapel of the Attavanti family. The Sacristan enters, grumbling to himself about having to clean the painter Mario Cavaradossi’s brushes. At the call of the Angelus bell, the Sacristan prays and Cavaradossi returns to his work. When the Sacristan leaves, Angelotti emerges from his hiding place. Cavaradossi, who is a republican sympathizer, promises to help the fugitive, but tells him to hide when Cavaradossi’s lover, the opera singer Floria Tosca, arrives. She is furious that Cavaradossi’s painting of the Madonna is a portrait of another woman, the Marchesa Attavanti, whom he has seen praying in the chapel. Tosca leaves only when Cavaradossi has promised her a rendezvous for that evening.
Cavaradossi offers Angelotti refuge in his secluded villa, describing where to hide in case of emergency. A cannon shot is heard – the authorities have discovered Angelotti’s escape – and the two men leave hurriedly.
The Sacristan brings news of the defeat of Napoleon at Marengo. The general excitement is cut short by the entrance of Scarpia on the trail of Angelotti. Tosca also returns to tell her lover that they cannot meet later because she must sing for the Queen in a victory cantata. Scarpia inflames her jealousy of the Marchesa Attavanti and orders his agents to follow her. A Te Deum of thanksgiving begins.
Scarpia’s apartment in the Palazzo Farnese. Evening
The Palazzo Farnese is the Roman residence of the Queen, and Scarpia’s rooms are near where Tosca will sing that evening. Spoletta reports the outcome of his pursuit of Tosca to a villa in the country. Angelotti could not be found, but Cavaradossi was discovered there and, because his every gesture and word expressed such mocking irony, Spoletta arrested him and has brought him back to Rome. Interrogated by Scarpia, Cavaradossi denies any knowledge of Angelotti and is taken away for torture. Scarpia now examines Tosca, using Cavaradossi’s screams to torture her; finally, she reveals the hiding place. When Cavaradossi is released it is clear that Tosca has betrayed him, but at that moment news arrives that the report of a royal victory at Marengo was incorrect and that Napoleon has won. Scarpia orders Cavaradossi’s execution. Alone with Scarpia, Tosca begs for her lover’s life and Scarpia names his price: to make love to her. Seeing no alternative, she agrees, and Scarpia seems to order Spoletta to perform merely a sham execution. Once he has made out a safe‑conduct for her and Cavaradossi to escape from Rome, Tosca stabs him to death.
The battlements of the Castel Sant’Angelo. The hour before dawn
A shepherd boy is heard singing in the distance. Cavaradossi enters to await his execution. He writes a letter of farewell to Tosca and reflects on the joy she has brought him. Tosca arrives and discloses her plan for their escape. The firing squad duly performs the mock execution. Tosca realizes too late that Scarpia has deceived her: the execution was real and Cavaradossi is dead. The news of Scarpia’s murder has broken. As Spoletta and his men rush in to arrest Tosca, she escapes and leaps over the parapet to her death.
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