Setting: Rome; June 1800
Synopsis of the Action
As Tosca begins, Napoleon Bonaparte is advancing with his army upon
Rome. Bonaparte is the political enemy of Scarpia, and the hero of
Cavaradossi and Angelotti.
Floria Tosca, a celebrated songstress (soprano)
- Mario Cavaradossi, painter (tenor)
- Baron Scarpia, Chief of the Police (baritone)
- Cesare Angelotti (bass)
- A Sacristan (baritone)
- Spoletta, Police Agent (tenor)
- Sciarrone, Gendarme (bass)
- A Gaoler (Jailer) (bass)
- A Shepherd-boy (contralto)
- Roberti, Executioner (mute)
- A Cardinal, a Judge, a Scribe, an Officer, a Sergeant (mute:
not a speaking or singing role)
- Plus misc
Soldiers, Police-Agents, Ladies, Nobles, Citizens, Artisans, etc.
The Church of Sant'Andrea della Valle
Angelotti, an escaped political prisoner, takes refuge in a side chapel
of the church of Sant'Andrea della Valle in Rome. An elderly sacristan
comes to tidy up, followed by Cavaradossi, a painter, who is at work on
a portrait of the Madonna. Cavaradossi compares his Madonna's
blonde-haired, blue-eyed charm with the dark beauty of his lover, the
famous singer Floria Tosca ("Recondita armonia").
Angelotti emerges from hiding to find Cavaradossi, his political ally,
who promises to help his friend escape from Rome. Angelotti hides again
at the sound of Tosca's voice from outside. Tosca jealously demands to
know why the door was locked. Cavaradossi reassures her, and they join
in a passionate duet ("Non la sospiri").
Once Tosca has gone, Angelotti reappears and he and Cavaradossi plan his
flight. A cannon shot from the Castel Sant'Angelo announces the
discovery of Angelotti's escape. They exit. The sacristan enters
followed by clerics and choir boys, all excited by rumors of Bonaparte's
defeat ("Tutta qui la cantoria"). Baron Scarpia, the chief of police,
arrives with his henchman Spoletta in search of the escaped prisoner.
Tosca returns, and Scarpia plays upon Tosca's jealousy in hopes of
discovering Angelotti's whereabouts ("Tosca divina"). When she leaves to
seek her lover, Scarpia has her followed. As the crowd intones the "Te
Deum," Scarpia vows to bring Cavaradossi to the gallows and Tosca into
his arms ("Va, Tosca! Nel tuo cuor s'annida Scarpia").
Scarpia's study in the Palazzo Farnese; that evening.
Alone at dinner, Scarpia reviews his plot. Spoletta reports that he and
his men trailed Tosca to the villa and found no trace of Angelotti, but
placed Cavaradossi under arrest. Cavaradossi is brought in and
Scarpia has sent for Tosca, and she enters as Cavaradossi is taken away
to be tortured. Upon hearing his anguished cries, Tosca reveals
Angelotti's hiding place.
Cavaradossi is dragged into the study. His anger at Tosca's betrayal
turns to joy when Sciarrone announces that Bonaparte has actually
defeated Melas at Marengo. The enraged Scarpia sends Cavaradossi back to
Tosca asks the price of her lover's freedom. Scarpia will accept only
Tosca's submission. "Vissi d'arte" ("I have lived for art"), Tosca sobs
to herself in a celebrated aria: she has devoted her life to music and
piety, why does God repay her with misery? As she struggles to free
herself from Scarpia's embrace, Spoletta enters with the news that
Angelotti has killed himself rather than be arrested. Ashamed, Tosca
signals that she will give in to the Baron, on condition that
Cavaradossi be set free at once. Scarpia explains that he cannot grant a
pardon; he can only release Cavaradossi by faking his death in a mock
execution. Tosca demands that Scarpia provide a note of safe conduct for
herself and Cavaradossi. While he is writing, Tosca catches sight of a
sharp knife on his dinner table and, unnoticed, takes it. Scarpia seals
the note, then turns eagerly to embrace the trembling diva. "Questo è il
bacio di Tosca!" ("This is Tosca's kiss!"), she cries, plunging the
knife deep into his heart. Scarpia cries out for help as Tosca curses
him. She takes the safe-conduct pass and slips out of the room.
The Castel Sant'Angelo; dawn of the following day.
Soldiers bring Cavaradossi to the ramparts of the fortress. He reflects
on his love for Tosca ("E lucevan le stelle").
Tosca rushes in with the note of safe conduct and the story of Scarpia's
violent death. Cavaradossi praises her courage, saying that her gentle
hands were not meant for murder ("O dolci mani"). Tosca instructs him in
the plan of the feigned execution: after the gunshots he is to lie still
until she gives him a signal. Though she believes the execution to be a
farce, Tosca is filled with anxiety as her lover is led before the
soldiers. They fire and Cavaradossi falls to the ground. Tosca whispers
to him to remain motionless until everyone has gone. At last she tells
him it is safe, but he does not respond. With a piercing scream, Tosca
realizes Scarpia's final deceit. She weeps over Cavaradossi's body as
Spoletta and Sciarrone, having found the Baron murdered, burst in to
arrest her. Too quick for them, she runs to a parapet, shouts "O Scarpia,
avanti a Dio!" ("Oh Scarpia, we shall meet before God!"), and hurls
herself to her death.