Since Joseph Kerman called Puccini's Tosca a "shabby little shocker" the musical world's view of Puccini has changed so much. However, the public have been consistent in always holding him in high regard.
Puccini researched the sounds of Rome very carefully for this opera, especially the sound of bells to embellish his wonderfully written score. There are many musical 'tags' and themes associated with people or feelings in the opera all of which are woven together so successfully. These days we view Puccini's artistry with considerably more admiration than in Joseph Kerman's period in the middle of the last century.
The "Tosca" opera is melodramatic but that is its appeal and even charm. Seeing an evil, corrupt and lustful man get his comeuppance is satisfying but not, of course, the suffering and death which he causes on the way.
Tosca, a prima donna, is loved by a painter called Cavaradossi who has hopes of a united republican Italy.
Scarpia, the chief of Police, seeks to eliminate all opposition to the King. His first appearance is one of the special moments in opera when the choirs' chanting in praise of an Italian victory over the French is so dramatically interrupted by his angular, angry theme.
Angelotti, an escaped prisoner with revolutionary views and a friend of Cavaradossi, seeks refuge. Scarpia is in pursuit, torturing Cavadossi to find out where Angelotti is hiding. It is Tosca who finally gives the secret away having seen the torture that Cavaradossi has endured at the hands of Scarpia.
Tosca thinks that she has bargained successfully for Cavardossi's life and pretends to give way to Scarpia's sexual advances before stabbing him. She goes to the execution of Cavaradoosi thinking that 'dummy' bullets will be used but no, Scarpia was too clever for that. Cavaradossi is really shot and it is one of the most famous of all endings in opera when Tosca realizes this and throws herself off the castle parapet to her death.
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