“One thing to understand about Tosca is that it’s a masterpiece. It’s an incredible opera and the way Puccini uses music to tell a story, to develop characters, it is genius. For me, the first three bars of the score are very important, because they create this real moment and we understand instantly what we are dealing with here: we hear Scarpia’s theme and in this moment we understand that this character is absolute evil. This is the villain’s musical signature and Puccini weaves this motif throughout the opera to remind us, this is what we are in the presence of.”
2. Act I, Cavaradossi’s aria: “Recondita armonia” (“Hidden harmony”)
“So we start the opera with a very ominous musical motif, but then we have this counterpoint when we meet the artist Cavaradossi and the mood is different: much lighter and exceptionally beautiful. Cavaradossi is an artist and Tosca’s lover, and here he is declaring in a very moving way that even as he paints this blonde Madonna portrait, his thoughts are only of the dark-haired Tosca. It’s a very sensitive and well-designed moment of romantic beauty that shifts the atmosphere from the darkness of Scarpia."
3. Act I, Tosca's entrance
“From the instant that we hear Tosca’s emphatic ‘Mario, Mario!’ we grasp the character of her immediately. We understand that she’s an artist. A singer. A woman of great character. And we hear a motif that we’ll hear again in her famous 'Vissi d’arte’ aria. So in this brief musical exchange we get a fully realized and very charming sense of who she is. In the same way that Puccini communicated the essence of Scarpia, then of Cavaradossi, now we meet Tosca and what we hear is a woman in love.”
4. Act I, Te Deum
“The famous Te Deum, how can I not mention this piece? A great ensemble scene. It is a religious ritual and a procession in the church—it is sacred music—but Puccini also weaves in the lust of Scarpia as well. So you have once again a brilliant contrasting of musical textures. There are so many threads he combines: power, love, erotic obsession, politics, religion, violence, it is all here in this crowd.”
5. Act II, Tosca's aria: "Vissi d'arte" ("I lived for art")
“Probably the most famous of the big, well-known Puccini arias. Here we find Tosca in an impossible situation. She fully begins to understand the ugly intentions that Scarpia has and she asks, ‘why is this happening to me?’ It is a crisis but the amazing thing about this opera is that despite the terrible situation she is facing, Tosca resists hopelessness. The violence, the evil of Scarpia: all of this is crowding her. But as the aria builds wonderfully, Tosca finds light, she finds hope, in this moment of musical prayer.”
6. Act III opening: "lo de' sospiri"
“This is the wonderful, magical opening of Act III. Morning in Rome. We hear a new dawn. All the details of the town, the colours. The air is light, it’s a little bit humid, a little bit fresh, but at the same time we feel a certain gravity hanging in the air because there are momentous events that are happening. All of these colours are in this incredible musical description.”
7. Act III, "Ah! Franchigia a Floria Tosca" ("Freedom to Floria Tosca")
“A duet for Tosca and Cavaradossi, this is an important moment in which things are coming to the end and she says, ‘I have this paper that will permit me to leave Rome!’ and the lovers seem poised to celebrate their freedom. And the music Puccini writes is like a dance, but we are left with the question, is it a dance of joy or a ‘danse macabre’? A moment of hope and fear co-existing.”
Join us for Tosca this spring, May 5 to 27! Tickets now on sale.