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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.

The cast
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.

Act One

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").

Act Two

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 questioned.

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 his cell.

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 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.

Act Three

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.


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Last modified: 02/26/09.