Tosca: A Timeline

Tosca: one of Puccini’s best known opera, but the composition was hardly a smooth road. Take a look at some of the key dates leading up to the premiere.

24 November 1887, Théâtre de la Porte, Saint-Martin, Paris
Première of Sardou’s La Tosca, with the celebrated actress Sarah Bernhardt in the title role.

Spring 1889
Ferdinando Fontana, librettist of Puccini’s operas Le Villi (1884) and Edgar (1889), suggests La Tosca to Puccini as an operatic subject. The composer reads the play.

[?May] 1889, Milan
Puccini sees Bernhardt perform La Tosca. Although the composer understood little of the performance (given in French), the experience rekindled his enthusiasm.


Autumn 1894
Puccini’s interest in Tosca had waned and a rival composer, Alberto Franchetti, had signed a contract with Ricordi for an opera based on Sardou’s play, with a libretto by Luigi Illica. Illica reads aloud the libretto to a small gathering, among which is Verdi.

Verdi’s reaction is reported to Puccini. This information and Franchetti’s proposed adaptation make Puccini want to write Tosca, and Ricordi and Illica dissuade Franchetti from going ahead with his version. Another twelve months pass before Franchetti renounces his right to composing Tosca.

Spring 1898
According to the autograph score, work on Tosca makes serious progress, with Puccini completing the finale of Act I, Scarpia’s monologue and the Te Deum.

16 July 1899
Orchestration of Act II completed.

27 September 1899
Orchestration of Act III completed.

14 January 1900, Teatro Costanzi, Rome
Première of Tosca. Present are Queen Margherita, Prime Minister Pelloux, Minister of Education Baccelli, and other Italian political and cultural figures, including Mascagni, Cilea, Franchetti, Sgambati, Marchetti, Costa.

Enormous crowd at theatre doors from 11am. Orchestra hardly begun when stopped by shouting and stampeding of people unable to enter. Forced to drop curtain and begin again when silence restored.