Tosca Synopsis

Act I

It is June 19, 1800. Cesare Angelotti, a leader of the recent short-lived Roman republic and an escaped political prisoner, has taken refuge in the Attavanti Chapel of the Church of Sant’Andrea della Valle.


At the church he chances upon the painter and political sympathizer Mario Cavaradossi, who is working on a painting of Mary Magdalene. Cavaradossi agrees to hide Angelotti at his nearby villa, but they are interrupted by the arrival of Floria Tosca, a celebrated singer and Cavaradossi’s lover.


Tosca is jealous when she sees that Cavaradossi’s model for the portrait is Marchesa Attavanti. He manages to assure her of his love, all the while trying to shorten the meeting to allow Angelotti to escape. After Tosca leaves, Cavaradossi gives Angelotti the keys to his villa and tells him of a secret hiding place in the well of his garden. A cannon signals the discovery of Angelotti’s escape and both men flee.


The church choristers celebrate the news that they are to be paid extra for the evening’s Te Deum, which is to be sung in celebration of the Austrian victory against Napoleon at the Battle of Marengo. Their good spirits are shattered when the much-feared police chief, Baron Scarpia, enters the church looking for Angelotti. When Tosca returns, Scarpia convinces her that Cavaradossi is having a clandestine affair with the Marchesa, provoking the distraught Tosca to leave at once for the villa. One of Scarpia’s men follows her. Parishioners stream into the church. The exalted strains of the Te Deum mix with Scarpia’s lurid fantasies of possessing Tosca for himself and of destroying her lover, Cavaradossi.


I N T E R M I S S I O N


Act II - That evening

Cavaradossi has been imprisoned in the Farnese Palace, where Scarpia summons Tosca for questioning after her concert in celebration of the military victory.


While Scarpia interrogates her, Cavaradossi is tortured in the next room. Unable to bear her lover’s cries of pain, Tosca reveals Angelotti’s hiding place at the villa, much to Cavaradossi’s horror. When it is announced that Napoleon, not the Roman allies, has won the Battle of Marengo, Cavaradossi explodes in curses of the old, corrupt regime, and threatens Scarpia physically. Despite Tosca’s pleas, Cavaradossi is dragged off to await death at sunrise. Tosca, in shame and horror, agrees to give herself to Scarpia in return for Cavaradossi’s freedom.


Scarpia tells Tosca that, to save face, Cavaradossi must undergo a mock execution. Scarpia signs their safe-conduct pass. As she waits for the pass, Tosca discovers a knife at Scarpia’s table, and when he tries to take her in his arms she plunges the knife into his chest. The most powerful man in Rome dies pitifully as she watches. Tosca flees into the early morning hours with the safe-conduct pass in her hands, intending to rescue Cavaradossi before the murder is discovered.


I N T E R M I S S I O N


Act III

The next morning, shortly before dawn, on the rooftop of the Castel Sant’Angelo, Cavaradossi awaits his execution. Tosca arrives with the safe-conduct pass and tells Cavaradossi of Scarpia’s murder. Tosca explains the mock execution with blank cartridges. Before the executioners arrive, the lovers dream of their future together.


Tosca watches the execution. As the firing squad departs, Tosca rushes to Cavaradossi, and finds, beneath the cloth covering the body, a corpse riddled with bullets. Scarpia has deceived her: Cavaradossi is dead. There is no safe passage. In the lower floors of the fortress there is shouting. Scarpia’s body has been found and they know Tosca murdered him. Cornered, but defiant to the end, Tosca flees the police and at the last moment leaps to her death from the high ramparts of the fortress.
 

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Scenes from Vancouver Opera's Tosca.
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James Wright on Tosca

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