Composed by Giacomo Puccini
Libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica
After the play by Victorien Sardou
Premiered at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome on January 14, 1900
July 29, 30 and August 5, 6 [8pm]
Presented in Italian with projected English supertitles
Directed by Jon Truitt
Conducted by Stephen Hargreaves
Rome at the dawn of war in the 1940s
Cesare Angelotti, an escaped political prisoner, rushes into the church of Sant’Andrea della Valle. He hides in one of the chapels just before the painter, Mario Cavaradossi, arrives to work on his portrait of Mary Magdalene. The painting has been inspired by the Marchesa Attavanti, whom Cavaradossi has seen in the church but does not know. He is struck by the resemblance of the dark-haired beauty of his lover, the singer Floria Tosca, and that of the blonde Marchesa Attavanti. Angelotti, who was a member of the former Republic’s government, emerges from his hiding place. Cavaradossi recognizes him and promises help, then hurries him back into the chapel as Tosca is heard calling from outside. She jealously asks Cavaradossi whom he has been talking to and reminds him of their rendezvous that evening. Suddenly, upon recognizing the likeness of Marchesa Attavanti in the painting, she accuses him of being unfaithful, but he assures her of his sincere love.
When Tosca has left, Angelotti again comes out of hiding. An artillery shot signals that the police have discovered his escape, and Angelotti and Cavaradossi flee to the painter’s house. The sacristan enters the church with choristers who are preparing to sing in a Te Deum celebrating the recent victory against the republican forces at the Battle of Marengo. Their excitement is silenced by the arrival of Scarpia, chief of the secret police, who is searching for Angelotti. When Tosca comes back to the church looking for Cavaradossi, Scarpia shows her a fan with the Attavanti crest that he has just found. Seemingly finding her suspicions about her lover’s infidelity confirmed, Tosca bursts into tears. She vows vengeance and leaves as the church fills with worshipers. Scarpia sends his men to follow her to Cavaradossi, with whom he thinks Angelotti is hiding. While the congregation sings the Te Deum, Scarpia declares that he will bend Tosca to his will.
In his study at the Palazzo Farnese, Scarpia anticipates the pleasure of having Tosca in his power. The spy Spoletta arrives with news that he was unable to find Angelotti. Instead, he brings in Cavaradossi. While Scarpia interrogates the defiant painter, Tosca is heard singing at a royal gala in the same building. Scarpia sends for her and she appears just as Cavaradossi is being taken away to be tortured. Frightened by Scarpia’s questions and Cavaradossi’s screams, Tosca reluctantly reveals Angelotti’s hiding place.
Cavaradossi is brought in, badly hurt and barely conscious. When he realizes what has happened, he angrily confronts Tosca, just as the officer Sciarrone rushes in and announces that the republicans have won the battle, a defeat for Scarpia’s side. Cavaradossi shouts out his defiance of tyranny and is dragged off to be executed. Scarpia calmly suggests to Tosca that he might let Cavaradossi go free if she would surrender herself to him. Fighting off his advances, she declares that she has dedicated her life to art and love and calls on God for help. Scarpia insists that Tosca should submit to him. Spoletta breaks the tense standoff and announces that Angelotti has killed himself rather than being captured.
Tosca is now forced to either concede to Scarpia’s demand or lose her lover. She agrees to Scarpia’s unscrupulous proposition. Scarpia orders Spoletta to prepare for a mock execution of Cavaradossi, after which he is to be freed. Tosca demands that Scarpia write her a letter of safe-conduct. After Scarpia completes the letter, Tosca grabs a knife from a dining table and stabs him.
At dawn of the next morning, Cavaradossi awaits execution at the Castel Sant’Angelo. Cavaradossi bribes the jailer to deliver a farewell letter to Tosca. Overcome with emotion, Cavaradossi gives in to his despair. Tosca appears and explains what has happened. The two imagine their future in freedom.
As the execution squad arrives, Tosca implores Cavaradossi to a fake a convincing death at his execution, and she then hides. The soldiers fire and depart. Cavaradossi doesn’t move and Tosca realizes that Scarpia has betrayed her. Just as Spoletta and Sciarrone rush in to arrest her, Tosca leaps from the battlement.
Adapted from The Metropolitan Opera