Giacomo Puccini () ()
Performed in the original Italian with Czech and English surtitles
She sacrificed all for art and love and in the end there was only desolation and death…
Tosca – famous, but also a woman and a lover, who in the space of a single night loses everything. Maria Callas – one of the world’s most famous opera singers, but also a woman and a lover, who renounced all for her art, only in the end to give up art for a love that was never fulfilled. Two fates that merge in one moment…
Tosca is a work from its beginnings meant for a great artist. The original play La Tosca by the French playwright Victorien Sardou was written for the famous actress Sarah Bernhardt. Floria Tosca became one of her most successful roles and then inspiration for the Italian composer Giacomo Puccini. The opera’s creation was not straightforward, its creators many times doubting whether the choice of subject with its complicated political background of the Napoleonic wars was a good one, but the premiere in Rome’s Teatro Costanzi in January 1900 confirmed the dramatic instincts of the composer. The public, although at first shocked by the realism and brutality of some scenes, quickly took this opera full of wonderful and emotive music to its heart. Since its Roman premiere in 1900 this tragic tale of the three main characters – the singer Tosca, the painter Cavaradossi and the police chief Barona Scarpia – has repeatedly pulled in audiences throughout the world. Its passionate music impresses and sends shivers down the spine at the same time. Puccini’s opera contains popular numbers, such as Cavarodossi’s aria “E lucevan le stele” and Tosca’s “Vissi d’arte, vissi d’amore”. Tosca quickly won a place among the most performed operas in the world and just like the theatre work was always linked to the great performers, whether Emmy Destinn or Maria Jeritza. Maria Callas is still considered to be the greatest interpreter of this role there has ever been.
Jiří Heřman on the new production:
For me the main theme is self-sacrifice and how far a person can go in this. Is sacrifice from love liberating? If the meaning of life is love, can we live without it? These are questions we are going to ask in this new production. A great inspiration for me was my time spent studying in Rome and the art and life of Maria Callas.
Premiere on 15th May 2015, Janáček Theatre
Janáček Opera Ensemble and Orchestra of the National Theatre Brno
A group of tourists comes to the church of Sant’Andrea della Valle. When their guide tries to call them to convene, she notices an elegant lady and to her surprise she recognizes her as the opera diva Maria Callas. Surprised tourists salute the famous singer, only a young couple breaks off from the group and goes away minding just themselves. Maria looks at them and before her eyes, at the rays of sunlight through the dome of the church, her life intersects with the story of an opera that brought her the greatest fame…
Cesare Angelotti, consul of the Roman Republic, escaped from the Castel Sant’Angelo prison. In the church, in the family chapel, his sister hid women’s clothes for him to change into. A sacristan prepares brushes for the painter Cavaradossi, who is working here on a painting of Mary Magdalene. Cavaradossi appears and the sacristan notices that his image resembles the shape of a woman who regularly comes to the church to pray. Cavaradossi nods he saw her too, and impressed by her fervent prayer, he immortalized her in his painting. The sacristan is scandalized, but Cavaradossi argues that each beauty has its own magic and recalls his lover, the singer Floria Tosca. The sacristan exits and appears Angelotti, thinking that the church is empty. He is startled by the presence of the painter, but then recognizes he is an old friend of his. Cavaradossi off ers him help, but Angelotti must hide again as Tosca comes to the church. She heard voices from the inside and suspects that Cavaradossi hides another woman before her. The painter finally manages to get Tosca to leave, but she eventually notices the unfi nished painting and recognizes in it the traits of the Marchesa Attavanti. Cavaradossi reassures her about his love again. Tosca finally leaves. Cavaradossi off ers Angelotti shelter in his villa. Before they leave, a cannon shot signals the discovery of the escape of Angelotti. Cavaradossi decides to accompany his friend. The sacristan convokes acolytes to prepare for the Te Deum to celebrate a victory against Napoleon. The church is raided by police chief Scarpia with his men, looking for fugitive Angelotti. The open chapel, a fan with a sign of the Marchesa Attavanti on it, an empty basket of food intended for Cavaradossi – all these items are evidence affi rming Scarpia’s suspicion that Angelotti was there and who helped him to escape. Tosca is returning to the church. Scarpia decides to use Tosca’s jealousy to fi nd the refugee. With the help of the discovered fan he convinces her that Cavaradossi actually dates Attavanti. Tosca is determined to catch the lovers in the artist’s villa and Scarpia sends his men to follow her. The ceremonial Te Deum begins, but Scarpia’s ideas are concentrated solely on Tosca.
In the Palazzo Farnese, Scarpia is waiting for his men whom he sent to follow Tosca in the villa of Cavaradossi. Tosca is also in the palace, singing a festive cantata. Scarpia has her invited to his suite. Spoletta comes in to deliver his report: aft er Tosca’s departure they raided the villa but failed to find Angelotti there, so they arrested Cavaradossi at least. Cavaradossi is brought to Scarpia, but denies all charges. Tosca enters, surprised by his presence. Scarpia orders the painter to be brought away and tries to get information from Tosca. She first denies having found someone else in the villa, but when Scarpia orders Cavaradossi to be tortured, Tosca reveals aft er a while that Angelotti is hidden in the well at the villa. Scarpia has Cavaradossi brought back in and sends Spoletta to the villa. Cavaradossi reproaches Tosca for having betrayed him. A messenger bursts in with news of Napoleon’s victory. Cavaradossi ridicules Scarpia and welcomes freedom! Scarpia indicates that the painter has signed his own death sentence and lets him be taken away. Tosca begs Scarpia to spare Cavaradossi. Scarpia objects that only she can save him – if she gives herself to him, Cavaradossi will be saved. Tosca finally agrees, but wants Cavaradossi to be released immediately. Scarpia, however, insists on a mock execution. He gives orders to Spoletta and writes a safe-conduct. The moment he wants to take his reward, Tosca kills him.
Cavaradossi awaits his execution at the Castel Sant’Angelo. A sound of church bells is heard. Cavaradossi recalls how happy they once were with Tosca and writes a farewell letter. Tosca arrives, shows him the safe-conduct from Scarpia and confesses that she has killed Scarpia. She tells him about the way his „execution“ is supposed to take place and advises him on how to behave in order to make everything seem credible. They are both are enjoying the upcoming freedom and reassure one another of their love.
At dawn, Cavaradossi is brought before a firing squad on the terrace of the Castel Sant’Angelo. The soldiers fi re and he falls down. When the squad leaves, Tosca runs to him in horror and discovers that Scarpia deceived her: Cavaradossi is dead. Spoletta rushes into the courtyard with men who have already discovered Scarpia’s dead body. Tosca is left with only one way out…