PUCCINI: Tosca (Highlights) (Alexander Rahbari/ Andrea Piccinni/ Giorgio Lamberti/ Gunter Appenheimer/ Jan Durco/ Jozef Spacek/ Miroslav Dvorsky/ Nelly Miricioiu/ Silvano Carroli/ Slovak Philharmonic Chorus/ Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra/ Stanislav Bena
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Opera in 3 Acts
Libretto: Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa
Tosca, afamous singer - Nelly Miricioiu, Soprano
Cavaradossi, painter - Giorgio Lamberti, Tenor
Baron Scarpia, Chief of Police - Silvano Carroli, Baritone
Spoletta, a police agent - Miroslav Dvorsky, Tenor
Sciarrone, a policeman - Jan Durco, Bass
Un Carceriere (Gaoler) - Stanislav Benačka, Bass
Il Sagrestano (Sacristan) - Jozef Spaček, Baritone
Czecho-Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava)
Giacomo Pucciniwas born in Lucca in 1858 into a family with long-established musicaltraditions extending back at least to the early eighteenth century. It wasnatural that he should follow this tradition and become a musician, and afterthe death of his father, when the boy was five, it was arranged that he shouldinherit the position of organist at the church of St. Martino, which meanwhilewould be held for him by his uncle. He was trained as a chorister and as anorganist, and only turned to more ambitious composition at the age ofseventeen. A performance of Verdi's opera Aida in Pisa in 1876 inspiredoperatic aspirations, which could only be pursued adequately at a major musicalcentre. Four years later he was able to enter the conservatory in Milan, assisted financially by an uncle and by a scholarship. There his teachers wereAntonio Bazzini, director of the conservatory from 1882 and now chiefly rememberedby other violinists for one attractive addition to their repertoire, andAmilcare Ponchielli, then near the end of his career.
Puccini's firstopera was Le villi, an operatic treatment of a subject better knownnowadays from the ballet Giselle by Adam. It failed to win thecompetition for which it had been entered, but won, instead, a staging, throughthe agency of Boito, and publication by Ricordi, who commissioned the opera Edgar,produced at La Scala in 1889 to relatively little effect. It was in 1893that Puccini won his first great success with his version of the Abbe Prevost'sManon Lescaut, a work that established him as a possible successor toVerdi. La Boh?¿me followed in 1896.
Tosca, which was first stagedin Rome in 1900, was based on a successful play by the French dramatistVictorien Sardou (1831-1908), a work designed as a vehicle for Sarah Bernhardt,as was much else that Sardou wrote. Ricordi had originally intended that theopera should be written by Alberto Franchetti, who enjoyed considerable fame in Italy at the time. By subterfuge Franchetti was dissuaded from the project bywhat Ricordi suggested to him of its unsuitability as a subject for opera, andthe way was open for Puccini to undertake the composition, once La Boh?¿me wasout of the way. The libretto was by Giuseppe Illica and the poet Luigi Giacosa,writers who had collaborated with others on the text of Manon Lescaut andhad written La Boh?¿me, and were hereafter to continue workingwith Puccini with Madama Butterfly in 1904.
was first staged at theTeatro Costanzi in Rome with some success, in spite of threats ofbombing at the first night, presumably because of the political andanticlerical implications of the plot, which is set in Rome. Critical opinionhas been mixed. Mahler refused a performance at the Vienna Court Opera, leavingZemlinsky to conduct the first Vienna performance at the Volksoper in 1907,while the scholar Joseph Kerman has described the piece as "a shabbylittle shocker".
The first sceneof the opera is set in the Church of Sant' Andrea della Valle in Rome. On the right is the Attavanti Chapel and on the left a scaffolding with a largepainting on it, covered with a cloth, with painter's brushes and colours and abasket on the platform. The republican nobleman Angelotti, who has escaped fromprison, steals in and conceals himself in the family chapel. The Sacristancomplains about the work made for him by the artist Cavaradossi, who now comesin and sets to work on his painting of St. Mary Magdalen, which, to the scandalof the old Sacristan, bears a close resemblance to a gentlewoman who comes eachday to pray, the sister of Angelotti ("Sante ampalle") [Track 1]. Cavaradossitakes out a miniature of Tosca, at which he gazes, praising her beauty ("Recanditaannania"), and comparing her with the subject of his portrait,while the Sacristan complains of this blasphemy. As he goes, the fugitivenobleman Angelotti emerges from hiding, eventually recognised by Cavaradossi,who quickly moves to shut the church door, giving him his own basket of food.
As the voice of Tosca is heard outside ("Mario! Mario! Mario!") ,he hurries Angelotti into hiding once more.
Tosca, a famoussinger, is at first suspicious of Cavaradossi, since she has heard him talkingto someone and had found the church door locked. She offers the flowers she hasbrought before the statue of the Madonna and turning to Cavaradossi urges himto meet her that evening after the theatre, so that they may go together to hislittle villa. She sings of this idyllic cottage ("Non la sospiri la nostracasetta")  and of their future happiness, but shows signs ofjealousy when she sees the picture, with blue eyes, rather than a reproductionof her own black eyes ("Ah, quegli occhi!") .
As Toscaleaves, Cavaradossi reassures Angelotti, who has emerged again from hiding,praising Tosca's loyalty, although he has told her nothing. He agrees to helpAngelotti escape with the disguise that his sister, the Marchesa Attavanti, hasarranged for him, to help him evade the clutches of the wicked and hypocriticalchief of police Baron Scarpia. The latter appears, with his henchman Spoletta,to interrupt public rejoicing at the defeat of Napoleon and to investigate thedisappearance of Angelotti, whose sister he recognises in Cavaradossi'spainting. He himself has designs on Tosca, and from the discovery of an emptyfood-basket and a fan bearing the Attavanti coat of arms in the Attavantichapel he infers that Cavaradossi has assisted Angelotti's escape, with thehelp of the latter's sister. He resolves to use the fan, at least, to arouseTosca's jealousy. People begin to crowd into the church and Scarpia signals toSpoletta, telling him to follow Tosca ("Tre sbirri, Una carrozza"). The Cardinal and his attendants move towards the high altar, theSwiss Guards making a way for them through the crowd, while Scarpia gloats overhis intended victim. He now has two desires, to see Angelotti hanged and topossess Tosca, his evil intentions in contrast to the Te Deum with whichthe choir now celebrates the victory over Napoleon.
The second actof the opera is set in Scarpia's rooms, on an upper floor. There is a table setand through the window of the apartment can be seen the courtyard of thepalace. It is night, and Scarpia is taking his supper, while occasionallybreaking off in thought. He looks at his watch impatiently and remarks outaloud on the usefulness of Tosca in leading him to his victims Angelotti andCavaradossi ("Tosca ?¿ buon falco") . He learns fro