Synopsis - Tosca
Once dubbed a ‘shabby little shocker’, the overwhelming present-day popularity of Puccini's Tosca rests on its real locations, brilliant characterisations, tense drama and thrilling music, set against the historical background of Napoleon's struggle to dominate Italy.
The escapee republican patriot Angelotti takes refuge in the church of Sant' Andrea delle Valle in Rome, where his friend Cavaradossi is painting a picture of Mary Magdalene. Cavaradossi's lover, the fiery opera singer Floria Tosca arrives, followed by police chief Scarpia who suspects them of complicity in Angelotti's escape.
Scarpia later arrests Cavaradossi and calls in Tosca, intending to seduce her in a bargain for Cavaradossi's life. If she relents, he will arrange a mock execution. In despair, Tosca secures a ‘safe-conduct’ for herself and Cavaradossi, then stabs Scarpia as he advances to take his prize.
At the place of execution at dawn the next morning, Tosca explains the plan to Cavaradossi. They imagine their future together and embrace: Cavaradossi prepares to play dead, but Scarpia has betrayed them – the firing-squad's bullets are real. Tosca curses Scarpia and throws herself from the battlements.
Listen to the story
A dramatic and personal re-telling of Tosca by Sally Gardner, read by Emilia Fox.
Tosca Fact and Fiction
Premiered in Rome in 1900, Tosca is also set in the Eternal City exactly 100 years earlier – during a historically identifiable 18- hour period during 17 and 18 June. Each act takes place in a real location: Act 1 in the church of Sant’Andrea della Valle (at noon), Act 2 in the Palazzo Farnese (that evening) and Act 3 on the battlements of Castel Sant’Angelo (at dawn the next day). Several historical figures are mentioned, not least Napoleon, whose falsely rumoured defeat at the Battle of Marengo prompts the celebratory Te Deum in Act 1, but all four main characters are fictional.
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