About this Recording
8.110096-97 - PUCCINI: Tosca (Gigli, Caniglia) (1938)
English 

GIACOMO PUCCINI (1858-1924)

Tosca

‘Arde in Tosca un folle amor!’

‘In Tosca there blazes a wild love’

Tosca, Act I

There are few operas in which the prima donna actually portrays an opera singer on stage; Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann is one and JanáÇek’s Makropoulos Case another, but Tosca is far and away the best known of such rôles and it is around the passionate drama of her life that Puccini’s plot revolves. Her jealous love for Cavaradossi and Scarpia’s fatal lust for her are what make this one of the most melodramatic and colourful of all nineteenth century operas.

It is natural to say ‘Puccini’s plot’, but that is to ignore Victorien Sardou (1831-1908), on whose play of 1887, La Tosca, Puccini’s librettists based their text; it was a major feat of adaptation. Sardou’s original stretched to five acts and had a cast of 23, whilst the opera as completed was reduced to three acts with ten characters. Puccini felt the libretto was a distinct improvement on the play (as well he might) and he certainly understood the necessity of finding a soprano with the right personality and stage presence (let alone voice) to sing the title rôle at the première; what was needed was the operatic equivalent of Sarah Bernhardt, who had taken the part when Puccini first saw the play performed in 1895. The choice of prima donna fell upon Romanian soprano Hariclea D’Arclee who, during her successful career, had already sung in the world premières of Catalani’s La Wally and Mascagni’s Iris. Emilio de Marchi was Cavaradossi, Eugenio Giraldoni sang Scarpia and the glittering first performance in Rome was graced by the presence of Queen Margherita of Italy. To the composer’s chagrin, the première was not greeted with universal enthusiasm (the torture scene in Act 2 being found particularly objectionable), but before many months had passed the opera was presented in several other Italian cities and its popularity grew apace. It was first seen at Covent Garden in June 1900 and in February 1901 at the Metropolitan Opera, New York.

The curious drama that surrounded the making of this historic set of records bears repetition. HMV’s original choice of soprano was Iva Pacetti (1898-1981), as Tosca had for some years been one of her most successful stage rôles. The story goes that, shortly after starting the recording session, Pacetti was taken ill and felt unable to carry on. She had already recorded six sides from the first act (two takes of each) but it was clearly impossible to use one soprano in act 1 and another in acts 2 and 3. Not a moment could be lost, with a cast of singers and a large orchestra simply waiting to continue, and Tosca without a leading lady is at a disadvantage. Maria Caniglia’s name was mentioned as a possible substitute, she was found to be available and, within an hour of one lady’s departure, the other had arrived, ready to repeat those sections already recorded by Pacetti with her colleagues Gigli and Borgioli and, in due course, to finish the entire opera. Fortunately none of this off-stage tension is discernible on the completed set for, if anything, Caniglia was a finer Tosca than Pacetti and during the following eight years she went on to record further operas with Gigli as her tenor partner. If hers is a performance stronger on temperament and passion than on vocal perfection, then so be it; other Toscas before and since have similarly succeeded in the rôle without being endowed with truly beautiful voices but, like her, they have created a vivid interpretation that is touching, amorous and vengeful by turns. As Scarpia, Armando Borgioli offers an appropriately threatening performance. Although well known during his lifetime, he has been largely forgotten by later generations, probably because of his modest recorded legacy. A complete Aida and this Tosca are the principal extant examples of his singing but, had he survived the war, he might well have extended his international career and achieved greater fame. However, as with his other complete recordings, it is Gigli who dominates. He had been singing the rôle of Cavaradossi for many years before this set was made; it featured in his first season at the Met in 1920, and in his first at Covent Garden in 1930. He recorded the two celebrated arias on both acoustic and electric 78s and poured into Puccini’s melodies that unique golden tone for which he was so much admired. In every scene of the opera Gigli brings a humanity to Cavaradossi, the result of his familiarity with the rôle and his love of the music.

‘E muoio disperato! E non ho amato mai tanto la vita!’

‘I die a desperate man, and never have I so loved life!’

Tosca, Act 3

Tosca was first performed on 14th January 1900 at the Teatro Costanzi, Rome.

Beniamino Gigli was born in Recanati, Italy in 1890 and in 1914 made his début in Rovigo in La Gioconda. He soon sang throughout Italy and, from 1919, in South America; 1920 saw his phenomenal début as Faust in Mefistofele at the Met, where he stayed for twelve seasons. First heard at Covent Garden in 1930 in Andrea Chénier, he returned both before and after the war, and sang in many European cities in opera and concert. At his best in Verdi and Puccini, his golden tone made him universally popular throughout the world. Gigli died in Rome in 1957.

Born in 1905, the Neapolitan soprano Maria Caniglia made her début at the age of 25. She then sang regularly at La Scala, including Ballo in maschera in 1941, her final performances there being in 1951. Caniglia appeared at the Metropolitan in 1938/9 and at Covent Garden before the war and during the 1950 La Scala visit. She created rôles in contemporary operas, but was best heard in nineteenth century lyric/dramatic Italian repertory and verismo. Her recordings, including complete performances of Tosca, Aida and Don Carlos, show a rich, dramatic voice, occasionally imperfect in intonation but undeniably exciting. Caniglia died in 1979.

Armando Borgioli was born in 1898, a native of Florence. His début in 1923 was followed by success at Milan’s Teatro Carcano in 1925 as Amonasro, and from 1927 he sang regularly at La Scala. He appeared at Covent Garden for several seasons from 1927, and between 1931 and 1935 at the Metropolitan Opera, New York; equally popular on his South American visits as in Italy, and singing principally Italian nineteenth century and verismo rôles, Borgioli occasionally ventured into other repertory, including Telramund (with Gigli as Lohengrin) in 1926. Borgioli died in 1945 during a bombing raid near Modena.

Oliviero de Fabritiis was born in 1902 in Rome, where he also studied at the Conservatory. He made his début at the Adriano Theatre there in 1920 and subsequently conducted extensively throughout Italy. Appointed Artistic Secretary of the Teatro dell’Opera, and conducting several notable premières, in 1938 he led the opening season of opera at Rome’s Caracalla Baths. De Fabritiis made his Covent Garden début in 1965 and in 1971 was appointed Artistic Director of the Vienna Festival. He was an imaginative and expressive maestro, well represented by complete operas on record. De Fabritiis died in Rome in 1982.

Paul Campion

Synopsis

CD 1

Act 1

1 The opera opens in the Church of Sant’Andrea della Valle in Rome. On the right is the Attavanti Chapel and on the left a scaffold with a large painting on it, covered with a cloth, with painter’s brushes and colours and a basket on the platform. The orchestra plays three sinister chords, symbols of the villainous Chief of Police, Baron Scarpia. Angelotti, in prison clothes, enters, exhausted and fearful, making his escape. He looks around, thinking at last that he has found safety, as he sees the column with its stoup of holy water and statue of the Madonna, where his sister has told him she has left the key to the Attavanti Chapel, which he now unlocks and enters, in trepidation, fearing that he may have been followed. The sacristan now appears, carrying a bundle of paint-brushes and talking to himself, complaining about the work the painter gives him, cleaning the place, and surprised when he finds the painter Cavaradossi not there. He climbs onto the platform and looks into the painter’s basket, but finds nothing has been touched. The Angelus sounds and the sacristan kneels in prayer, as Cavaradossi comes in and climbs onto the platform, unveiling his painting of Mary Magdalene. The sacristan rises and exclaims out aloud when he sees the painting, which he recognises as that of a gentle lady who comes each day to pray. Cavaradossi praises her beauty, at which the sacristan is scandalised.

2 The painter starts work, while the sacristan busies himself cleaning the brushes. Cavaradossi then takes from his pocket a miniature, at which he gazes, comparing it with the painting, to which his dark-haired Tosca offers a contrast yet a resemblance. The sacristan continues to complain at what he regards as the artist’s disrespect for religion, before taking his leave.

3 Angelotti now emerges from hiding, takes alarm at first, but then recognises Cavaradossi. Eventually the painter realises the identity of the intruder, and quickly climbs down from the scaffolding and shuts the side door to the church. The voice of Tosca is heard calling from outside.

4 Cavaradossi gives Angelotti his basket of food and hurries him into the chapel, as Tosca enters. At first Tosca is suspicious of Cavaradossi, since she has heard him talking to someone, and has found the church-door locked. She offers the flowers she has brought, before the statue of the Madonna and turning to Cavaradossi urges him to meet her that evening after the theatre and to go together to his little villa. She sings of this idyllic cottage and their future happiness, and he submits. Then, looking over his shoulder anxiously, he tells her to go, while he continues his work. She turns to leave, but then sees the painting and seems to recognise the subject, a woman she has seen before and now recalls as the Marchesa Attavanti. She is jealous of this possible rival.

5 Cavaradossi calms her fears, assuring her that no beauty can compare with hers. Tosca would be happier were the Magdalene to have black eyes like her own, rather than blue.

6 As Tosca leaves, Cavaradossi goes to the chapel where Angelotti is hiding and opens the gate for him. They shake hands and the artist explains that Tosca is loyal and true, but will tell all in the confessional. For this reason he has not confided in her. Angelotti explains how his sister, the Marchesa Attavanti, has prepared to help him escape over the border by leaving a disguise for him, and Cavaradossi tells him how moved he has been at her appearance each day at the statue of the Madonna. She has striven to save her brother from the machinations of the wicked Chief of Police, Baron Scarpia, a man that Cavaradossi also detests, hypocritical in his pretence of religion. The painter agrees to help him escape in woman’s disguise and tells him to wait in the garden, where he will later meet him. At the same time he tells him of a place to hide, if need be, at the end of a secret passage in the wall of the garden-well. The sound of the cannon is heard, signal that Angelotti’s escape has been discovered. They leave the chapel together. The sacristan rushes in and is surprised to find that Cavaradossi is not there, as he had hoped to alarm the heretic with bad news for him. Priests, acolytes and singers of the choir crowd noisily in, and the sacristan tells them his good news, that Napoleon has been defeated, an event for general rejoicing and bringing extra work and extra money for the singers, who are doubly delighted.

7 When the tumult is at its height, Scarpia unexpectedly enters and all immediately fall silent, as he upbraids them for such sacrilegious behaviour and sends them about their business. He detains the sacristan for further questioning and tells his henchman Spoletta to search the building thoroughly for any sign of the fugitive Angelotti. Scarpia finds the Attavanti Chapel open, and entering discovers there only a fan, which seems to Scarpia to indicate the connivance of some accomplice. Finding on it the coat of arms of the Attavanti family, he now suspects the Marchesa Attavanti, and he is still further struck when he sees the portrait of the Magdalene, in which he recognises the features of the Marchesa. That the painter is Cavaradossi, as the sacristan tells him, can only deepen his suspicions. One of Scarpia’s men now comes out of the chapel carrying the basket, now empty, a sure sign of the painter’s involvement, as he infers from the sacristan’s account of the matter. The food must have been given to Angelotti.

8 Tosca comes in, agitated, and Scarpia hides behind the column, plotting to use the fan as Iago used Desdemona’s handkerchief, to excite a lover’s jealousy, since he too has designs on Tosca. The sacristan tells Tosca that Cavaradossi has disappeared, and she at once supposes him untrue. Scarpia emerges from hiding, offers Tosca holy water, and praises her beauty and goodness, in contrast to women who come to church only for assignations with their lovers. He looks pointedly at the portrait and shows her the fan, immediately prompting a renewal of her jealousy.

9 He consoles her, as she leaves, intent on interrupting the supposed meeting between the Marchesa Attavanti and her Cavaradossi.

10 People begin to crowd into the church, and Scarpia signals to Spoletta, telling him to follow Tosca. The Cardinal and his attendants move towards the high altar, the Swiss Guards making way for them through the crowd, while Scarpia gloats over his victim. Scarpia now has two desires, to see Angelotti hanged and to possess Tosca, his evil desires in contrast to the Te Deum with which the choir now celebrates victory over Napoleon.

Act II

11 The second act opens in Scarpia’s rooms, on an upper floor. There is a table set and through the window of the apartment can be seen the courtyard of the palace. It is night, and Scarpia is taking his supper, and occasionally breaking off in thought. He looks at his watch impatiently and remarks out aloud on the usefulness of Tosca in leading him to his victims, Angelotti and Cavaradossi. He rings a bell and the police agent Sciarrone comes in and in response to Scarpia’s enquiry tells him he has had Tosca sent for. He opens the window and the sound of music is heard from the lower floor, where the Queen of Naples is giving a ball to celebrate the recent victory, an event at

which Tosca is to sing. He gives Sciarrone a note to make certain that Tosca will come to him, in order to save her beloved Cavaradossi.

12 He sings of his own lack of romantic charm and his desire for power. Sciarrone returns and announces Spoletta, who explains how he and his men have shadowed Tosca to Cavaradossi’s villa, where they found nothing. Scarpia is angry at this failure to capture Angelotti, but is slightly mollified when Spoletta tells him that he has arrested Cavaradossi, who surely knows where Angelotti is.

13 Scarpia paces the room, and then through the window is heard the victory cantata. This means that Tosca has arrived. Scarpia prepares to examine Cavaradossi, in the presence of the executioner Roberti and the judge and his clerk. Scarpia bids Cavaradossi be seated, but he indignantly refuses. As the interrogation proceeds, the sound of the choir below is heard, with the voice of Tosca.

14 In irritation Scarpia shuts the window, and demands to know the whereabouts of Angelotti. Cavaradossi claims ignorance and denies having helped the fugitive. Scarpia tries gentler tactics, wheedling and threatening. Tosca enters, anxious, and rushes to embrace Cavaradossi, who tells her to divulge nothing of what she has seen. Scarpia hands Cavaradossi over to the executioner and judge for questioning in the adjacent torture-chamber, himself remaining alone with Tosca.

15 Now, he says, let us talk, and proceeds to question Tosca, using the fan discovered in the chapel as a means to arouse her jealousy. He calls to Sciarrone, who reports that the prisoner has admitted nothing, and then turns back to Tosca and explains the torture that her lover is undergoing in the next room. A prolonged groan is heard, and Tosca, in increasing agitation, begs for mercy and calls out to her lover, who tells her to be brave and keep silent.

16 Scarpia tells her to speak and when she refuses bids Roberti continue the torture, to Tosca’s increasing horror. When she still refuses to tell anything of what she knows, Scarpia tells Spoletta to open the door to let her hear her lover’s groans and orders further torture. Eventually, when she sees what is happening to Cavaradossi, she gives way, in spite of her lover’s protestations and admits that she knows the whereabouts of Angelotti, the well in the garden, where she had earlier followed her lover in jealousy.

17 Scarpia commands that Cavaradossi be brought in, and Tosca, appalled at what he has suffered, kneels by his side, in tears.

18 Cavaradossi realises, however, that Tosca has betrayed him and thrusts her from him, as Sciarrone rushes in, excitedly announcing news of a new victory for Bonaparte. Cavaradossi greets the news with jubilation, while Tosca tries to silence him, and Scarpia threatens execution. Cavaradossi is dragged away, to Tosca’s protests, and she is left alone with Scarpia, who calmly takes up his wine-glass, polishes it with a napkin and suggests that together they find a way to save Cavaradossi. Tosca asks the cost.

19 Scarpia demands her honour. She jumps up, aghast, and threatens to jump from the window if he comes near her. Then she makes a move to appeal to the Queen, in the apartments below, but Scarpia makes it clear that such an appeal will be at the cost of Cavaradossi’s life. She tells Scarpia that she hates him, but this arouses still further his desire for her. A drum-roll is heard and Scarpia bids Tosca look out of the window to see the prisoners being led to execution.

20 He watches her coldly, as she passionately declares her devotion to art and goodness.

21 She kneels in supplication to Scarpia, and begs for mercy for her lover, but Scarpia remains determined. Spoletta rushes in to announce that Angelotti has poisoned himself, before he could be captured, and Scarpia commands that his body be hung on the gallows. Spoletta seeks orders for the treatment of Cavaradossi, and Scarpia allows Tosca a moment to make her decision. She nods assent, and Scarpia goes on to propose his plan. Cavaradossi is to appear to be shot, in the same way as Count Palmieri, but not with real shot. Spoletta understands his true instructions well enough, but Tosca is deceived into believing that Cavaradossi will really be allowed to live. Spoletta leaves to carry out his orders, and Tosca, seeks a safe-conduct for herself and Cavaradossi, a request to which Scarpia readily assents.

22 He goes to his desk and begins to write, breaking off to ask Tosca which road they will take. As he writes, Tosca approaches the table, and sees a knife, which she takes and hides behind her. Scarpia finishes writing, adds his seal to the document and seeks to embrace her, but she raises the knife and stabs him full in the chest. He curses her, as he falls, and she taunts him, as he lies dying. She then goes to the table and takes water to wash her hands, and straightens her hair before the glass. Searching for the safe-conduct, she finds it clenched in Scarpia’s fist, takes it, and is about to leave, when she turns back and takes two candlesticks, standing on a side-table, and lights them from the central candelabra, which she extinguishes. She places the candles at Scarpia’s head, takes a crucifix from the wall and places it on the corpse. A distant roll of drums is heard, as she makes her way quietly out of the apartment.

CD 2

Act III

1 The third act is set on a platform on the battlements of the Castel Sant’Angelo. Below the little staircase that leads to the platform there is a casemate, a room set in the wall of the fortress, with a table, bench and chair. On the table there is a lamp, writing materials and a large register. There is a crucifix on one of the walls, with a lamp beneath it. In the distance can be seen the Vatican and St Peter’s. It is night, with a clear sky, in which the stars shine brightly. Sheep-bells can be heard, and the voice of a shepherd-boy, singing his distant song of love unrequited. The matins bell rings and the bells of other churches are heard, some distant, some near at hand.

2 A gaoler, carrying a lantern, comes up the stairs and into the room, lighting the lamp before the crucifix and the lamp on the table. He goes up to the parapet and looks down into the courtyard, where executions take place. He exchanges a few words with the sentry, patrolling the battlements, and then returns to the room and sits down, sleepy. Cavaradossi is escorted by soldiers onto the platform, and brought into the room. The gaoler stands and salutes the sergeant, who hands his prisoner over. There is still an hour to go, before the execution, but Cavaradossi rejects the offer of a priest, only asking leave to write a last letter to Tosca, and promising the man his last possession, his ring.

3 Cavaradossi sits down and starts to write, but breaks off to reflect on his love for Tosca in happier times.

4 Spoletta comes up the stairs, with the sergeant, and followed by Tosca. He tells the sentry to watch the couple, and leaves them together. Tosca, too full of feeling to speak, rushes over to Cavaradossi, and gives him the safe-conduct she has taken from Scarpia. She goes on to explain what Scarpia demanded in return, and how she had killed him.

5 Cavaradossi marvels that such gentle hands could be so strong. She then reveals to him her plan, and the mock execution that she thinks Scarpia has ordered, after which they can escape together. Cavaradossi tenderly tells her of the bitterness he felt at dying without seeing her, but now they will be together.

6 Returning to reality, Tosca warns Cavaradossi to fall down when the firing-squad shoots, and as the soldiers of the firing-squad approach, the two lovers sing of their coming joy and final triumph. Dawn breaks, and a bell is heard striking four, the hour of execution that Scarpia had set. Tosca warns Cavaradossi once again to remember to fall when the men fire. He takes leave of her, and follows the officer, while she looks on, impatient. Cavaradossi refuses a bandage for his eyes and the ritual of execution proceeds slowly.

7 Tosca waits in anxiety. The soldiers raise their guns and the officer gives the signal. The men fire and Cavaradossi falls. The sergeant inspects the body, and Spoletta prevents the sergeant from giving the coup de grace. The soldiers now withdraw, and Tosca tells her lover to lie still and not to move until it is safe.

8 She looks over the parapet and goes back to him where he lies, telling him to stand up and make his escape, but to her horror finds that he is really dead: Scarpia has outwitted her. Tosca is in despair, and now cries are heard from a distance, as the murder of Scarpia is discovered and the alarm raised. Spoletta and Sciarrone mount the staircase to seize Tosca, but she pushes Spoletta, so that he nearly falls backwards down the stairs. She rushes to the battlements and leaps over to her death, now to meet Scarpia again before the throne of God. Sciarrone and some of the soldiers rush to the battlements and look down, while Spoletta stands aghast, as the curtain falls.

Appendix: Excerpts (sung in French)

Act I

9 The voice of Tosca is heard calling from outside the church, where the painter Cavaradossi has been at work. Cavaradossi gives the escaped prisoner Angelotti his basket of food and hurries him into a side chapel, as Tosca enters. At first Tosca is suspicious of Cavaradossi, since she has heard him talking to someone, and has found the church-door locked. She offers the flowers she has brought, before the statue of the Madonna and turning to Cavaradossi urges him to meet her that evening after the theatre and to go together to his little villa. She sings of this idyllic cottage and their future happiness, and he agrees to her proposal. Then, looking over his shoulder anxiously, he tells her to go, while he continues his work. She turns to leave, but then sees the painting and seems to recognise the subject, a woman she has seen before and now recalls as the Marchesa Attavanti. She is jealous of this possible rival. Cavaradossi calms her fears, assuring her that no beauty can compare with hers. They embrace, but Tosca would be happier were the Magdalene to have black eyes like her own, rather than blue.

10 There is general rejoicing in the church at the defeat of Napoleon. When the tumult is at its height, Scarpia unexpectedly enters and all immediately fall silent, as he upbraids them for such sacrilegious behaviour and sends them about their business. [He detains the sacristan for further questioning and tells his henchman Spoletta to search the building thoroughly for any sign of the fugitive Angelotti. Scarpia finds the Attavanti Chapel open, and entering discovers there only a fan, which seems to Scarpia to indicate the connivance of some accomplice. Finding on it the coat of arms of the Attavanti family, he now suspects the Marchesa Attavanti, and he is still further struck when he sees the portrait of the Magdalene, in which he recognises the features of the Marchesa. That the painter is Cavaradossi, as the sacristan tells him, can only deepen his suspicions. One of Scarpia’s men comes out of the chapel carrying the basket, now empty, a sure sign of the painter’s involvement, as he infers from the sacristan’s account of the matter. The food must have been given to Angelotti.] Tosca comes in, agitated, and Scarpia hides behind the column, plotting to use the fan as Iago used Desdemona’s handkerchief, to excite a lover’s jealousy, since he too has designs on Tosca. [The sacristan tells Tosca that Cavaradossi has disappeared, and she at once supposes him untrue.] Scarpia emerges from hiding, offers Tosca holy water, and praises her beauty and goodness, in contrast to women who come to church only for assignations with their lovers. He looks pointedly at the portrait and shows her the fan, immediately prompting a renewal of her jealousy. He consoles her, as she leaves, intent on interrupting the supposed meeting between the Marchesa Attavanti and her Cavaradossi. People begin to crowd into the church, and Scarpia signals to Spoletta, telling him to follow Tosca. The Cardinal and his attendants move towards the high altar, the Swiss Guards making way for them through the crowd, while Scarpia gloats over his victim. Scarpia now has two desires, to see Angelotti hanged and to possess Tosca.

Act II

11 The second act opens in Scarpia’s rooms, on an upper floor. There is a table set and through the window of the apartment can be seen the courtyard of the palace. It is night, and Scarpia is taking his supper, and occasionally breaking off in thought. He looks at his watch impatiently and remarks out aloud on the usefulness of Tosca in leading him to his victims, Angelotti and Cavaradossi. [He rings a bell and the police agent Sciarrone comes in and in response to Scarpia’s enquiry tells him he has had Tosca sent for.] He opens the window and the sound of music is heard from the lower floor, where the Queen of Naples is giving a ball to celebrate the recent victory, an event at

which Tosca is to sing. He gives Sciarrone a note to make certain that Tosca will come to him, in order to save her beloved Cavaradossi. He sings of his own lack of romantic charm and his desire for power. Sciarrone returns and announces Spoletta, who explains how he and his men have shadowed Tosca to Cavaradossi’s villa, where they found nothing. Scarpia is angry at this failure to capture Angelotti, but is slightly mollified when Spoletta tells him that he has arrested Cavaradossi, who surely knows where Angelotti is.

12 Cavaradossi has been brought before Scarpia for interrogation. Scarpia demands to know the whereabouts of Angelotti. Cavaradossi claims ignorance and denies having helped the fugitive. Scarpia tries gentler tactics, wheedling and threatening. Tosca enters, anxious, and rushes to embrace Cavaradossi, who tells her to divulge nothing of what she has seen. Scarpia hands Cavaradossi over to the executioner and judge for questioning in the adjacent torture-chamber, himself remaining alone with Tosca. Now, he says, let us talk, and proceeds to question Tosca, using the fan discovered in the chapel as a means to arouse her jealousy. He calls to Spoletta, who reports that the prisoner has admitted nothing, and then turns back to Tosca and explains the torture that her lover is undergoing in the next room.

13 A prolonged groan is heard, and Tosca, in increasing agitation, begs for mercy and calls out to her lover, who tells her to be brave and keep silent. Tosca, in increasing agitation, calls out to Cavaradossi, who tells her to be brave and keep silent. Scarpia tells her to speak and when she refuses bids Roberti continue the torture, to Tosca’s increasing horror. When she still refuses to tell anything of what she knows, Scarpia tells Spoletta to open the door to let her hear her lover’s groans and orders him to intensify the torture. Eventually, when she sees what is happening to Cavaradossi, she gives way, in spite of her lover’s protestations and admits that she knows the whereabouts of Angelotti, the well in the garden, where she had earlier followed her lover in jealousy. Cavaradossi realises, however, that Tosca has betrayed him and thrusts her from him, as Sciarrone rushes in, excitedly announcing news of a new victory for Bonaparte. Cavaradossi greets the news with jubilation, while Tosca tries to silence him, and Scarpia threatens execution. Cavaradossi is dragged away, to Tosca’s protests, and she is left alone with Scarpia, who calmly takes up his wine-glass, polishes it with a napkin and suggests that together they find a way to save Cavaradossi. Tosca asks the cost .

14 Scarpia demands her honour. She jumps up, aghast, and threatens to jump from the window if he comes near her. Then she makes a move to appeal to the Queen, in the apartments below, but Scarpia makes it clear that such an appeal will be at the cost of Cavaradossi’s life. She tells Scarpia that she hates him, but this arouses still further his desire for her. A drum-roll is heard and Scarpia bids Tosca look out of the window to see the prisoners being led to execution.

15 Scarpia has proposed his bargain with Tosca, her honour in exchange for freedom for her and her lover. He watches her coldly, as she passionately declares her devotion to art and goodness.

16 Scarpia goes to his desk and begins to write, breaking off to ask Tosca which road they will take. As he writes, Tosca approaches the table, and sees a knife, which she takes and hides behind her. Scarpia finishes writing, adds his seal to the document and seeks to embrace her, but she raises the knife and stabs him full in the chest. He curses her, as he falls, and she taunts him, as he lies dying. She then goes to the table and takes water to wash her hands, and straightens her hair before the glass. Searching for the safe-conduct, she finds it clenched in Scarpia’s fist, takes it, and is about to leave, when she turns back and takes two candlesticks, standing on a side-table, and lights them from the central candelabra, which she extinguishes. She places the candles at Scarpia’s head, takes a crucifix from the wall and places it on the corpse. A distant roll of drums is heard, as she makes her way quietly out of the apartment.

Act III

17 Cavaradossi is imprisoned in the Castel Sant’Angelo. Spoletta comes up the stairs to the room where Cavaradossi is held prisoner, with the sergeant, and followed by Tosca. He tells the sentry to watch the couple, and leaves them together. Tosca, too full of feeling to speak, rushes over to Cavaradossi, and gives him the safe-conduct she has taken from Scarpia. She goes on to explain what Scarpia demanded in return, and how she had killed him. He marvels that such gentle hands could be so strong. She then reveals to him her plan, and the mock execution that she thinks Scarpia has ordered, after which they can escape together.

18 Cavaradossi tenderly tells her of the bitterness he felt at dying without seeing her, but now they will be together. Returning to reality, Tosca warns Cavaradossi to fall down when the firing-squad -shoots, and as the soldiers of the firing-squad approach, the two lovers sing of their coming joy and final triumph. Dawn breaks, and a bell is heard striking four, the hour of execution that Scarpia had set. Tosca warns Cavaradossi once again to remember to fall when the men fire. He takes leave of her, and follows the officer, while she looks on, impatient. Cavaradossi refuses a bandage for his eyes and the ritual of execution proceeds slowly. Dawn breaks, and a bell is heard striking four, the hour of execution that Scarpia had set. Tosca warns Cavaradossi once again to remember to fall when the men fire. He takes leave of her, and follows the officer, while she looks on, impatient. Cavaradossi refuses a bandage for his eyes and the ritual of execution proceeds slowly. The soldiers raise their guns and the officer gives the signal. The men fire and Cavaradossi falls. The sergeant inspects the body, and Spoletta prevents the sergeant from giving the coup de grace. The soldiers now withdraw, and Tosca tells her lover to lie still and not to move until it is safe. She looks over the parapet and goes back to him where he lies, telling him to stand up and make his escape, but to her horror finds that he is really dead: Scarpia has outwitted her. Tosca is in despair, and now cries are heard from a distance, as the murder of Scarpia is discovered and the alarm raised. Spoletta and Sciarrone mount the staircase to seize Tosca, but she pushes Spoletta, so that he nearly falls backwards down the stairs. She rushes to the battlements and leaps over to her death, now to meet Scarpia again before the throne of God. Sciarrone and some of the soldiers rush to the battlements and look down, while Spoletta stands aghast, as the curtain falls.

Keith Anderson

 

Producer’s Note

The premiere of Puccini’s Tosca in 1900 coincided almost perfectly with the emergence of the gramophone as a commercial success. By 1902, tenors Enrico Caruso and Fernando De Lucia had recorded arias from Tosca and over the next decade, literally dozens of Tosca excerpts would be recorded by great singers from Italy, France, Germany, Russia, and America. Considering the flurry of activity, one conspicuous lacuna in gramophonic history is that no recordings were made of Hariclea D’Arclee, the Romanian soprano who created the role of Tosca. Similarly, Emilio de Marchi, the first Cavaradossi, made no commercial recordings but at least he can be heard on private cylinders made during an actual performance of Tosca at the Metropolitan Opera House. Fortunately, Eugenio Giraldoni, the creator of Scarpia, did make recordings for The Gramophone Company and Fonotipia which are all eagerly sought by collectors.

The first complete recording of Tosca was made by Italian HMV during the late teens with an undistinguished cast of now forgotten names. With the advent of electrical recording, Italian HMV again recorded the opera, which included the eminent soprano Carmen Melis as Tosca, Pierro Pauli as Cavaradossi, and the powerful and expressive Apollo Granforte taking on the role of Scarpia. Not long after, Italian Columbia released its first recording of Tosca with the ultra- dramatic soprano Bianca Scacciati, together with Alessandro Granda, and Enrico Molinari. Neither of these recordings can be said to be the ideal Tosca but both contain much magical singing and imaginative conducting by Carlo Sabajno and Lorenzo Molajoli respectively.

During the mid-1930s, HMV inaugurated a series of complete opera recordings featuring Beniamino Gigli, the most famous tenor after Caruso. The first to be presented was Pagliacci in 1934. Four years later, La Bohème and Tosca were issued. In 1939, Madama Butterfly and Verdi’s Requiem were recorded and duly released. During the war, the project continued with Cavalleria Rusticana, Andrea Chénier, and Un Ballo in Maschera. In 1946, the series was brought to a close with a recording of Verdi’s Aida.

This recording of Tosca, the third in the Gigli series, was issued by all the major HMV affiliates and also by

U. S. Victor. After careful comparison of all available sources, I chose to use Victor pressings for the present transfer. Although these pressings are quieter than any HMV pressings, I had to use various parts of six complete sets in order to achieve optimum sonic consistency.

The French recording of Tosca highlights, presented here, was originally issued by French Odeon and later on American Decca. It features the incomparable voices of Ninon Vallin and Arthur Endreze, only to be marred by the utterly unworthy Enrico di Mazzei as Cavaradossi. Technically speaking, this recording is rather poor, and to make matters worse, neither Odeon nor Decca were capable of producing quiet pressings. The musical value of this recording far overrides its sonic imperfections, however, as it affords a delicious taste of what it would have been like to hear Tosca in Paris between the wars. To counteract the boxy sound of the recording, I have added a small amount of artificial digital reverberation and have also increased the mid-bass frequencies as much as I dare. Enjoy!

Ward Marston

In 1997 Ward Marston was nominated for the Best Historical Album Grammy Award for his production work on BMG’s Fritz Kreisler collection. According to the Chicago Tribune, Marston’s name is ‘synonymous with tender loving care to collectors of historical CDs’. Opera News calls his work ‘revelatory’, and Fanfare deems him ‘miraculous’. In 1996 Ward Marston received the Gramophone award for Historical Vocal Recording of the Year, honouring his production and engineering work on Romophone’s complete recordings of Lucrezia Bori. He also served as re-recording engineer for the Franklin Mint’s Arturo Toscanini issue and BMG’s Sergey Rachmaninov recordings, both winners of the Best Historical Album Grammy. Born blind in 1952, Ward Marston has amassed tens of thousands of opera classical records over the past four decades. Following a stint in radio while a student at Williams College, he became well-known as a reissue producer in 1979, when he restored the earliest known stereo recording made by the Bell Telephone Laboratories in 1932. In the past, Ward Marston has produced records for a number of major and specialist record companies. Now he is bringing his distinctive sonic vision to bear on recordings released on the Naxos Historical label. Ultimately his goal is to make the music he remasters sound as natural as possible and true to life by ‘lifting the voices’ off his old 78rpm recordings. His aim is to promote the importance of preserving old recordings and make available the works of great musicians who need to be heard.

The Naxos historical label aims to make available the greatest recordings in the history of recorded music, in the best and truest sound that contemporary technology can provide. To achieve this aim, Naxos has engaged a number of respected restorers who have the dedication, skill and experience to produce restorations that have set new standards in the field of historical recordings.


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