Floria Tosca stands in shock, clutching a dagger in her bloodstained hands. An hour before she was singing hymns in church. How did she come to this?
Tosca is a fast-paced operatic thriller. From the first shattering bars Puccini’s mastery puts you on the edge of your seat and keeps you there. Michael Blakemore’s classic period production returns with American soprano Mary Elizabeth Williams and Austrian baritone Claudio Otelli making their WNO debuts.
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"OK, so you know an aria from this? Not enough! You’re missing out. Blazing with dramatic music, the Orchestra propels you towards tragedy . Chorus? Magnificence in Act 1, distant sadness in Act 2. You’d better see it. Go on, jump..."
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Angelotti, who has just escaped from prison, finds a key left for him in a church by his sister, the Marchesa Attavanti, and hides in the Attavanti chapel. The sacristan grumbles about having to clean the painter Cavaradossi’s brushes. The painter himself returns to his work and, when Angelotti emerges from hiding, promises to help him but tells him to hide again when they hear Tosca approaching. Tosca, easily aroused to jealousy, suspects Cavaradossi of having an affair with the Marchesa. Cavaradossi manages to reassure her of his love before she leaves.
Angelotti tells the painter that his sister has left him some woman’s clothes and that he intends to escape in disguise. Cavaradossi mentions a hiding-place in his garden in case of emergency. They hear a shot, indicating that the escape has been discovered, and Cavaradossi rushes Angelotti to his safe house.
The sacristan announces a grand Te Deum to celebrate a report of a victory over the ruling regime. Excitement at this news is cut short by the arrival of Scarpia, on Angelotti’s track. A search of the church reveals a fan with the crest of the Attavanti and, when Tosca returns looking for Cavaradossi, Scarpia uses it to inflame her jealousy, as a way of winning Tosca for himself.
Scarpia waits for Tosca, who is singing at an official reception to celebrate the victory. Spoletta informs him that Angelotti has still not been found but that Cavaradossi has been arrested. Under interrogation, Cavaradossi denies any knowledge of Angelotti and as Tosca arrives he is led off to torture. At first she refuses to tell Scarpia anything, but finally she can bear Cavaradossi’s suffering no longer and reveals Angelotti’s hiding place. When Cavaradossi is brought in and hears Scarpia ordering the arrest of Angelotti it is obvious that Tosca has betrayed him. At this moment the news of a serious defeat for the current regime is announced. Cavaradossi is triumphant and Scarpia orders his execution.
Tosca begs for the life of her lover and Scarpia names his price: she must have sex with him in exchange for Cavarodossi’s freedom. Seeing no alternative, she agrees, and Scarpia orders Spoletta to perform a mock execution of Cavaradossi, after which he and Tosca will be able to escape. As he claims his reward, however, Tosca kills him.
Cavaradossi awaits execution, remembering the happiness Tosca has brought him. Tosca then tells him what has happened and prepares him for the mock execution. She realises too late that she has been deceived by Scarpia: the execution was real. Tosca pays for Scarpia’s murder with her own life.
Conductor Lothar Koenigs (21 Sep; 15, 19 & 22 Oct; 12 & 16 Nov)
Simon Phillippo (28 Sept; 3, 8,12 & 26 Oct; 5, 9, 19, 23, 26 & 30 Nov)
Director Michael Blakemore
Designer Ashley Martin-Davis
Lighting Designer Mark Henderson
Floria Tosca Mary Elizabeth Williams
Mario Cavaradossi Gwyn Hughes Jones
Scarpia Claudio Otelli
Angelotti Daniel Grice
Sacristan William Robert Allenby
All performances start at 7.15pm (except 8 & 12 October at 7pm)
Running time approximately 2 hours 45 minutes including two intervals
Sung in Italian with surtitles in English (and Welsh in Cardiff, Swansea and Llandudno)
Co-production with State Opera of South Australia