Upcoming Opera Events


Feb 27, Mar 1 & 3  The Nose by  Shostakovich - Opera Boston - Live Opera - Boston

March 26 - Mostly Mozart - Dinner concert at Danella's restaurant Federal Hill, Providence 

Mar 12-22 - Opera on Land and Sea Sarasota Opera House Tour & 7 Night Opera Cruise

April 23  - Just One of Those Things Evening of Cole Porter with the Island Moving Co.\




by: Lisa Kramer Reichel

TOSCA is the only opera that can be tied to an exact date, time, and place. It is set at a critical time in the military campaigns of the French general (and later Emperor) Napoleon Bonaparte.
During the late 1700s, the invasion of Italy by Napoleon and his French armies resulted in the expulsion of the old dynastic rulers, including the Pope. Radical French republics or states were set up in northern Italy and in Naples. The city of Rome became the Roman Republic (of which, in TOSCA, Angelotti was a former consul).

While Napoleon was in Egypt in 1799, an Austrian-Russian army defeated the French republics in Italy. Maria Carolina of Austria, the wife of the defeated King of Naples, Ferdinando IV, and sister of Marie Antoinette, inspired the Austrian reactionary party. Maria Carolina assumed the regency and began to "clean house" eliminating thousands of republicans and liberals and anyone who had supported French rule. In the spring of 1800, Napoleon and his forces crossed over the Alps and moved to the town of Marengo in northwestern Italy. Here they were met by Austrian forces commanded by General Melas on June 14, 1800. Napoleon believed that the attack by the Austrian force was a diversion and he ordered General Desaix to continue searching for the main Austrian Force in the south. By noon, however, with his forces falling back, Napoleon began to realize that he was losing to an all-out attack.

Act One of TOSCA reflects this moment. The Sacristan announces the news of the apparent victory of the imperial forces over Napoleon. The act ends with a "Te Deum" to celebrate the triumph, and Tosca will sing that evening for the Queen herself.  But the Battle of Marengo was not over. Napoleon sent a request for help to General Desaix who, returning with his troops, and at the cost of his own life, helped turn defeat into glory. During the second act of the opera, news arrives of the defeat of the monarchy. Mario's excitedly proclamation of "Victory" further angers Scarpia, who as chief of police for the monarchy, orders Mario to be dragged off to prison.

This dramatic scene reflects the divided sentiments of the people of Rome, torn between their loyalty to the crown and hopes for new freedoms under Napoleon. By the end of the opera, with Napoleon's victory secure, it seems as though Mario and Angelotti will have posthumous revenge. Napoleon, however, decided to compromise with Italy's traditional rulers. The newly elected Pope, Pius VII, regained control of the Papal States.

By coincidence, the world premiere of TOSCA took place almost exactly 100 years after the historical events which form its background.

Each scene in TOSCA takes place at locations that still exist in Rome today. Act I takes place in the church of Sant' Andrea della Valle, Act II at the Farnese Palace, and Act III on the roof of the Castel Sant'Angelo (Castle of the Holy Angel, so-named because of the large statue added to its roof. See drawing.) This castle was built by Roman Emperor Hadrian who reigned from A.D. 117 until his death in A.D. 138. Hadrian had this monument built to be his tomb. It was the largest and grandest of all Roman tombs.

Throughout the centuries, Castel Sant'Angelo has had various uses. It has been a fortress, a castle, the home of popes, and even a prison which is how it is portrayed in TOSCA. Although the castle has been battered in sieges, shaken by earthquakes, often flooded by the overflowing Tiber River along which it is built, and frequently changed by man, it stands as a wonderful monument to the historical glories of the past.


Questions or problems regarding this web site should be directed to info@operaprovidence.org
Last modified: 02/26/09.