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    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
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    An Opera Novel

    The serial novel project got me thinking about a novel of my own. Now that I’ve drafted a few chapters, I’ll start posting them here in installments. I don’t know how much interest there will be, but sharing the novel this way will help keep me working on it.

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    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
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    Chapter 1

    xxxxxFar from you,
    xxxxxHer beloved Lindoro,
    xxxxxNina languishes for love.
    xxxxxBut now that she comes
    xxxxxTo clasp you to her breast,
    xxxxxShe dies for love.

    “Are you awake?”

    xxxxxYes, with you alone does Nina feel no pain,
    xxxxxAnd is quite happy.
    xxxxxBut cruel sorrow
    xxxxxSwift besets her
    xxxxxIf she does not have you, her beloved.

    “Can you hear me?”

    xxxxxNina is here,
    xxxxxHe is not:
    xxxxxThey have stolen him away,
    xxxxxAh wretched me!
    xxxxxMerciful Heaven . . . hear me . . . Oh God!
    xxxxxLet me see him again . . . a day . . . an hour . . .
    xxxxxTell him, I love you . . . for ever Lindoro . . .
    xxxxxAnd triumph over all around.
    xxxxxThen let my destiny be fulfilled, let Nina die.

    “Open your eyes.”

    A man’s voice in the darkness. A throbbing pain. The sensation of falling through an endless void.

    “Open your eyes.”

    Eyelids slowly raising, to reveal a dim light, a blurred figure hovering above.

    “What were you singing?”

    “Singing?”

    An effort to sit up, accompanied by another stab of pain.

    “Oh! It hurts.”

    “Do not try to move.”

    Giving in at last, lying still. Stretched out on some hard, uneven surface, pressing into the small of the back. Eyes darting from side to side, trying to make out anything of the dark surroundings.

    The sound of water, dripping in a bowl. Then the cool touch of a wet cloth, soothing the pain.

    “Do not worry. You are safe now.”

    “Safe?”

    “They almost had you. But we got you away, brought you here.”

    “Here? Where am I?”

    “Where they cannot harm you.”

    “Who wants to harm me?”

    “You do not know?”

    “No. Should I?”

    A long pause, gathering weight. Then his voice again, more quietly.

    “Do you remember what happened to you?”

    “No.”

    “Do you remember what you did?”

    “No.”

    “Do you know who you are?”

    “I . . .”

    Silence and a mounting desperation.

    “I do not remember anything. Tell me, tell me, please.”

    Another pause.

    “Get some rest. Sleep.”

    Drifting once more into darkness. Hours go by, or seconds, as time ceases altogether or stretches into eternity . . .

    Skipping down a country hillside amidst the press of goats, herding the flock back home under the setting sun. Holding a bleating kid in her arms, singing along with the church bells . . .

    Kneeling, head bowed in prayer at Vespers, the organ soaring out hymns. The strict sisters keeping a wary eye for anyone falling asleep. Joining her voice to the other childish trebles, raised together in adoration . . .

    Standing on stage, before the flickering oil lamp footlights. Staring out at the horseshoe rings of private boxes—the men in their powdered wigs, the ladies in their fine gowns, fluttering their fans. Facing them all, knees shaking in fear, but raising her voice in song, as she had in the fields, or before the altar of our Lord:


    xxxxxNina is here,
    xxxxxHe is not:
    xxxxxThey have stolen him away,
    xxxxxAh wretched me!

    “Are you awake?”

    She groaned in answer. At last, she opened her eyes once more.

    “Here. Sit up.”

    With effort, he managed to prop her against the wall. Sharp stabs of pain shot through her body.

    “Eat this.”

    A wooden bowl. A spoon placed between her lips. Something soft and rancid; she coughed it back up.

    “Agh! That’s awful!”

    “You must eat.”

    “I cannot eat that!”

    “There is nothing else.”

    A single candle lit the room; little could be seen of the surrounding darkness. But she could see the man clearly now: a sharp face, with a cropped head and close-trimmed beard. Not old, but hardened; his coarse leather vest indicated a lower station.

    “Who are you?”

    “It does not matter.”

    “Have I seen you before?”

    “No.”

    She looked around her. No windows aided the flickering candlelight.

    “I want to get up.”

    “You are too weak. Lie still.”

    “I want to stand. Help me up, or get out of my way.”

    He helped her to her feet, bit by bit, as pain racked her body. Looking down, she saw that she wore a high-waisted red brocaded velvet gown, dirty and torn.

    Once on her feet, she moved forward, each step an ordeal, until she came up against a rough stone wall. Moving to her left along the wall, she turned a corner, then found a different surface—smooth, cold; a heavy iron door. She turned and looked at the man in alarm, but he stared back at her without expression.

    “You were singing again.”

    “Singing?”

    She concentrated, desperate to recall anything at all.

    “Yes. That much I remember. I am . . . a singer.”

    “What were you singing?”

    “It was the opera Nina. You know it?”

    “I have heard of it.”

    “Everyone has. It is famous. My first performance.”

    Images began to jostle for attention.

    “I was a great success. The audience was moved. I was moved as well.”

    The recollection drew her on, almost against her will.

    “How could I not be? The story is so sad. A young woman, bereft and forlorn. She teaches her servant girls a song to pass the time, while she waits for her lover to return. But they all look on her in pity, because . . .”

    “Because?”

    “Because . . . they know . . . her lover will not return.”

    “Why not?”

    “Because . . . he is dead. She saw him die; she watched as he was killed. But her mind . . . her mind cannot accept it . . . and so . . . she has forgotten . . . ”

    Suddenly anxious, she turned away.

    “What is wrong?”

    Unbidden images came to her mind, the memory sliding in like a knife.

    Lying in bed in his villa, holding him in her arms . . .

    Seeing him cry out, blood streaming from the iron ring around his temples . . .

    Watching him stand proud before the firing squad, their rifles lowering . . .

    Dizzy, she began to topple over. He moved to her, caught her in his arms. She fought to free herself.

    “No . . . no!”

    Touching the blood on his bullet-torn shirt . . .

    “Oh God . . .”

    Calling his name as her pursuers approached . . .

    “Please, no . . .”

    Leaping from the battlements into the void . . .

    “Ah! Let me go!”

    The loss thrust upon her, inescapable. She turned to him in fury.

    “Oh God! I wanted to die! Why didn’t you let me?”

    “Do you remember now? Tell me!”

    “Yes, damn you, I remember! I remember everything!”

    She struggled against his hold; his words were close and insistent.

    “Tell me! Tell me who you are!”

    Sobbing, she spat out the answer.

    “I am Floria Tosca, you monster! And my Mario . . . he is dead!”
    Last edited by Amfortas; July 8th, 2012 at 08:37 PM.

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    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
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    The premise of Tosca surviving her fall was suggested by the music critic Alex Ross. My novel draws on both Puccini’s Tosca (1900) and the play on which the opera is based, Victorien Sardou’s La Tosca (1887). Where the two works conflict, I favor the better-known Puccini version (Sardou himself would probably have approved of this practice, since he liked Illica and Giacosa’s libretto and sometimes came close to claiming it as his own). Still, Sardou’s play provides a useful, much more detailed background for the characters. It is the play, for example, that specifies Tosca’s first operatic performance as Paisiello’s Nina.
    Last edited by Amfortas; July 19th, 2012 at 12:25 AM.

  5. #4
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    I don't like the style. It's like dialogues supported by short, laconic descriptions, not longer than neccessary. Feels like I would get back to action games, start new one and watched the intro about my character being awaken somewhere and I was about to take control over it and go shooting and fighting for 3982504 hours before another forced fabular event would take place. Such thing comes to my mind when reading this more than the literature works I use to read. I don't feel as these one-two sentences placed between dialogues are anything like creating atmosphere and tension. Someone who doesn't like to read 3458124 pages of descriptions between each line of dialogue could appreciate it though.

  6. #5
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
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    I see your point.

    I've written one previous novel; people who read that one criticized me for having an overly ornate narrative style. In the serial novel, and again here in this chapter, I've consciously tried for a much leaner, more terse style, perhaps to a fault.

    Also, the style here is intended to reflect the character's disoriented, halting state of mind; the writing does open out gradually as the story goes on.

    Still, I can't guarantee the novel will please you as it unfolds. But thanks for taking the time to read the chapter and offer a response.

  7. #6
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
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    Chapter 2

    He moves behind her, standing inches away. Over her shoulder, she sees the flabby, leering face. The rouged cheeks, the ill-fitting wig. The hint of stale garlic in his hot, lustful breath.

    As he reaches to take hold of her, she turns and drives the blade with all her strength beneath his ribs. His eyes go wide; his face contorts; his mouth fills with blood. He falls backward, screaming for help. She orders him to die.

    Now he lies motionless on his back, arms spread wide, candelabras placed on the floor at each side of him, a crucifix on his chest. The image of Christ on the cross mirrors the man beneath. Then somehow the two figures, floating in a void, merge into one, so that she is looking, not at her fallen enemy, but at the crucified Savior. Blood seeps from the wound in his side. She looks down, and sees that she holds, not a knife, but a spear, blood slowly dripping from its tip.


    She awoke with a gasp, trying to shake off the image. After several deep breaths, she managed to still her tremors and slow her racing heartbeat.

    “Another dream?”

    She turned with a start to see the bearded man crouched beside her.

    “Yes,” she said. “The same one. Always the same, since I regained my memory.”

    He nodded, without showing much concern. She had no wish to confide her dream to him; it distressed her even to think about it. The bleeding spear: what could it mean? How could she equate her loathsome nemesis with our Lord?

    He stood and walked over to the wooden waste bucket, noted what little was inside.

    “You must eat.”

    “I cannot."

    “Then you will starve.”

    She shrugged, not sure she cared one way or the other—especially amidst so much uncertainty. Frustrated, she decided to make one more effort.

    “Will you not tell me where I am?”

    “I told you. Somewhere safe.”

    “Where is safe enough? Surely all Rome is looking for me.”

    His silence in the dim candlelight only spurred her on.

    “How long have I been here?”

    “I cannot tell you that.”

    “It feels like days . . . weeks.”

    She looked over at the iron door, then at the shackles chained to the wall.

    “Am I a prisoner?”

    “You are a guest.”

    “Then I can leave?”

    “Not yet.”

    “When?”

    “I cannot tell you that, either.”

    She shifted position on her straw mat, noting the dull ache that still beset her.

    “How is it I am still alive?”

    “Call it a miracle. Be thankful.”

    “I am not glad about it. Why didn’t you let me die?”

    “We needed you.”

    “We?”

    The man paused, caught himself.

    “I have said too much already.”

    Seeing an opening, she went on more eagerly.

    “Who are you? A Jacobin? A Royalist? What side are you on? And what do you want from me? I am of no importance; I am not political. I am just a singer.”

    He paced a moment, frowning, then turned to her.

    “Perhaps you should ask yourself who you are.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “You say you are not political. Yet you took up with that Frenchman, the painter Cavaradossi.”

    “Mario was not French! He grew up in Paris, but came from an old Roman family.”

    “But he picked up French ideas; studied with David; read Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot; became a Jacobin.”

    “Yes, he was a free thinker, a believer in the rights of men. He told me his views, even had me read some books. I understood in part, but I was never a revolutionary myself.”

    “Clearly not. The night you lost your lover, all of Rome came to hear you sing for Queen Caroline of Naples and other dignitaries, to celebrate Napoleon’s defeat by the Austrians. When the pay was right, you were a willing instrument of the royalists.”

    “I am an artist! Sometimes I must sing where and when I am told!”

    “Even though, a few hours later, you were just as happy to exult with your Mario when news came that Bonaparte had actually won.”

    “It was Mario I loved, not his beliefs! I did not involve myself in any of that. I lived for art. I lived for love.”

    “And you think that excuses you?”

    She glared at him. He continued pacing, then turned to her once more.

    “Tell me about Angelotti.”

    She looked up in surprise. After a pause, she answered uneasily.

    “What is there to say? A political prisoner. He escaped from the Castel Sant’Angelo. Mario tried to help him, took him to his villa.”

    “Where you led the police.”

    “I didn’t know! I was tricked, made to think Mario was there with another woman! I didn’t know I would be followed.”

    “Yes, your fabled, foolish jealousy.”

    She winced, but went on. “By the time the police arrived, Angelotti was safely hidden away. They arrested Mario, took him to the Palazzo Farnese, where he was interrogated and tortured.”

    “By Baron Scarpia.”

    “Yes, by Scarpia, that inhuman monster. But Mario would not reveal Angelotti’s location, no matter what they did to him.”

    “He did not have to, did he? You told Scarpia; betrayed your lover and the man he was trying to protect.”

    “I had no choice! Scarpia made me watch as Mario was tortured; I had to listen to his cries! Mario told me to say nothing, but I couldn’t let them torment him.”

    “And so you gave up Angelotti.”

    “Yes,” she admitted, hanging her head. “When they got to him, he had already killed himself. Mario was sentenced to death. I was in despair.”

    “But you were not finished yet, were you? You made one more deal with Scarpia.”

    “What would you have done?” she shot back. “I was desperate. He promised me he would spare Mario. It would be a sham execution, with blanks, and afterwards the two of us would leave Rome. But in exchange, I had to give in to Scarpia’s lust.”

    “A woman’s last resort. You sold your virtue.”

    “You think it was easy?” she cried. “I was on my knees, praying to God, asking him why he had abandoned me. And then the horrible thought came to me, my only chance of escape. Once Scarpia had signed the order of safe conduct and approached me, I picked up his dinner knife and stabbed him in the chest.”

    “Always the flair for the dramatic. But even in death, Scarpia had his revenge.”

    She nodded, her eyes picturing the scene. “I hurried to Mario, told him of the plan, even instructed him how to fall before the firing squad so that his death would be convincing. But Scarpia had betrayed us; the bullets were real. As I wept over Mario’s body, they came to arrest me for murder. But instead, I leapt off the battlements of the Castel Sant’Angelo, cursing Scarpia. I thought that would end my pain.”

    She looked up at him, her eyes flashing.

    “But now I am here, trapped in this dark place, with a cruel man who only tortures me further. Why do you interrogate me, force me to relive all this? After all I have been through, all I have lost, why do you make me suffer more?”

    Suddenly he moved toward her, hissing in anger.

    “Do you think you are the only one who has suffered?”

    He knelt beside her, bringing the candle up to his face. In the dim light, she saw the marks where an iron ring had pierced his temples.

    “You too have been tortured,” she whispered. “Did Scarpia do this to you?”

    He stared at her in silence. She looked back with growing apprehension.

    “Who are you?”

    He stood up and moved away. After several seconds, he turned and spoke.

    “Ever since the Revolution, the world has gone mad. Three years ago Napoleon controlled much of Italy, then was driven back by his enemies. Now, after his victory at Marengo, he may soon return. The tide ebbs and flows; men fall in and out of favor, and their heads roll for it. Yet you go on singing as if nothing has happened, one moment proclaiming yourself a loyal subject of the crown and church, the next cavorting with your Jacobin lover, all the while imagining you can stay above the fray. You thought you could avoid getting blood on your hands. But you found out otherwise.”

    He walked over to the door.

    “Your opera. Nina. She shuts out the truth because it is too much for her to bear. Perhaps that has been you all along. Perhaps you still have not come to your senses.”

    He turned and exited, closing the iron door behind him. She heard the key turning in the lock, then threw herself back on the mat. Thoughts of Mario and her painful loss mixed with the disturbing import of the man’s words. All the while she felt the press of the hard floor beneath the thin straw.

    Then she noticed the mat had shifted slightly. The bit of floor now uncovered was different from the surrounding stone. Curious, she got to her feet with difficulty, then pushed the mat aside.

    Beneath her was a rectangular outline that matched the dimensions of the mat. The masonry was smoother than the surrounding area, and appeared new. Some marking in the center caught her eye; she went to get the candle, then knelt down beside it.

    Gouged deep into the mortar, in sweeping, wayward strokes, three capital letters formed a single word:

    FIN

    The End. Absolute, implacable. She had been lying on the makeshift grave of some poor unfortunate—no doubt the cell’s last occupant.

    The place was a tomb.

    She felt a chill. Yet even as a wave of despair swept over her, something in her rebelled. However inclined she was to give up, however much she had wanted to end her life when she threw herself from the battlements of the Castel Sant’Angelo, a new resolve took hold of her. Whatever else, she would not die here.

    Somehow, she had to escape.
    Last edited by Amfortas; July 8th, 2012 at 08:39 PM.

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  9. #7
    Opera Lively News Coordinator Top Contributor Member MAuer's Avatar
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    I'm really enjoying this, including the background information on Tosca and Cavaradossi.

    By coincidence, I've just started reading Dumas' "Love and Liberty, or Nelson at Naples." in just the first several chapters are references to King Ferdinand and Queen Caroline of Naples, and Salvato Palmieri, the favorite aide-de-camp of the French general Championnet. Ferdinand and Caroline have just fled to Palermo on board Nelson's ship, Vanguard, in anticipation of the French occupation of Naples. I'll be curious to see how many other familiar characters from Tosca turn up in this novel.

  10. #8
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
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    Thanks, MAuer. And yes, my novel (like Sardou's play and Puccini's opera) is set in that same circa-1800 period, and will present quite a few key figures of the time.

    By the way, the bit about Cavaradossi growing up in France is another detail from Sardou's play that was dropped from the opera. It's intriguing to see just how much Illica and Giacosa trimmed away in writing their libretto.

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    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
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    Chapter 3

    The key turned once more in the lock, and the iron door opened with a loud protest. She watched from her mat as the keeper came in, carrying yet another wooden dish.

    “I have brought more food.”

    She nodded at the repulsive scraps.

    “Put it down there. I will try to eat.”

    As he placed the dish beside her, she looked up at him.

    “I have thought about what you said.”

    “Yes?”

    “Perhaps you are right. I have much to atone for.”

    He studied her as she went on.

    “It was easy just to sing and win applause, to ignore all the turmoil in the world. Then when trouble finally came to me, I was not prepared to face it.”

    She peered up at him meekly.

    “I am sorry that I revealed Angelotti’s hiding place. Were you a friend of his? If so, please accept my apology.”

    He looked at her intently.

    “You are more cooperative today.”

    “I see now that I must accept my circumstances.”

    “A wise decision.”

    “The only possible one, is it not? But still, it would be easier if I did not have to share my lodgings.”

    The keeper frowned at her.

    “Share? What do you mean?”

    “Surely you realize that I do not occupy this cell by myself.”

    “I see no one else here.”

    “Then you have not met my cellmate. A large, black rat. Not a friendly fellow.”

    The man gave the slightest trace of a smile.

    “Rats are common here.”

    “But I am not used to them.”

    “After all that you have done, you are afraid of a rat?”

    “This one, yes. He has the look of a villain. I call him ‘Scarpia.’”

    Now the man grinned openly.

    “You are an artist. Have you tried singing to him?”

    “Yes, but with no success. He does not listen to me. I do not think he is musical.”

    She looked up at him with entreating eyes.

    “I am afraid I am not brave enough to face him. Perhaps you could persuade him to leave?”

    “Perhaps. Where have you seen him?”

    “There is a small crevice there, in that corner. It must be his passageway.”

    She pointed to her right. The man nodded, then went to the corner and knelt down.

    “Where is the opening?”

    She rose and moved up behind him.

    “Right there.”

    “I do not see it.”

    She came still closer.

    “You are looking right at it.”

    “Where?”

    As the man looked on, she lifted the wooden waste bucket and upended it full force onto his head. It contained nothing solid—her modesty would not allow it—but a large amount of urine coursed over his face, stinging his eyes. Crying out, he struggled to remove the bucket, but she had lodged it so tightly it wouldn’t come off.

    “Ah! What have you done!”

    While he was thus distracted, she threw herself at him full force, knocking him flat on the floor, with her lying at an awkward angle on top. Taking advantage of his confusion, she grabbed hold of a shackle attached to the wall. As she had practiced, she was able to close the leg iron around his ankle, then slip the lock in place and close it.

    “Damn you! You witch!”

    The man finally recovered his wits enough to grab hold of her. Blinded, shackled, and in pain, he still kept a firm grip. She struggled against him, kicking and punching, but he wouldn’t let go. The stink of urine repelled her as she fought to get away. But in his fury, he was too strong; he was besting her.

    “I have you now! You won’t escape me!”

    With a last desperate effort, she leaned forward and bit his hand with all her might. He let out a scream, then drew back his arm. It was enough of an opening for her to make a clumsy roll to safety. She crouched and looked at him, breathing heavily.

    Crying out in rage, he at last managed to get the bucket off his head, blood streaming profusely from his nose. He tried to blink the stinging urine out of his eyes, as he took note of his shackled leg.

    “What are you doing?” he cried.

    “Leaving this place.”

    She rose and picked up the candle. Then she went to the cell door; he had left it partway open, his usual practice on his visits. Opening the door further, she stood on the threshold a moment, uncertain.

    “Help! Help! Prisoner escaping!” the keeper yelled. So much for being a guest, she thought. The man kept crying out, evidently figuring that the humiliation of being found in this embarrassing state was better than the penalty for remaining silent while she got away.

    She looked both left and right, and saw little difference either way—all trailed off into darkness. Opting for the left, she looked back one last time at her jailor. The last she saw of him in the dim light, he was fumbling with his keys, trying to find the one that would free him.

    Tosca ran through dark, narrow corridors. All was the same: cramped passages hemmed in by rough stone walls. Here and there, openings on either side led down similar paths. She was caught in a labyrinth.

    All the while, she heard distant voices shouting.

    “Where is she?”

    “Over here!”

    “No, this way!”

    “There she goes!”

    The voices bombarded her from all sides, echoing throughout the passageways. She did her best to avoid them by making twists and turns. After a while, though, she couldn’t locate them, couldn’t escape them. All she could tell for certain was that they were coming closer.

    She realized that the light of her candle, spilling around the corners, was giving her away. With great reluctance, she blew it out. Suddenly she was engulfed in a darkness more profound than she had ever known. Feeling her way along the rough stone walls, she stumbled on as best she could.

    Her progress was slow, and it was terrifying to hear the voices of pursuit in the pitch blackness. But gradually the cries became less frequent, and more faint. At last, they ceased entirely.

    She kept moving for several long minutes in the dark silence. There had to be some way out of this tomb. But as time went on, it seemed hopeless. She would never find the right path without help.

    Then, from a few feet away, she heard whistling. A familiar little march tune, though she couldn’t quite place it. She held her breath; who else was here with her in this terrible place?

    Taking a chance, she whispered into the darkness.

    “Who is there?”

    The whistling became louder as she approached.

    “Who are you?”

    The only response was a maniacal laugh. Then a pair of bony hands grabbed her by the arm.

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  13. #10
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
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    Chapter 4

    She barely stifled a scream, as the hands clutching her arm pulled her up against cold iron bars. While she tried to fight back, a croaking voice sang loudly in her ear:

    xxxxxEs lebe Sarastro! Sarastro soll leben!
    xxxxxEr ist es, dem wir uns mit Freuden ergeben!
    xxxxxStets mög er des Lebens als Weiser sich freun!
    xxxxxEr ist unser Abgott, dem alle sich weihn.

    Though she was still terrified, the recognition made her stop struggling and cry out.

    “Mozart!”

    The singing ceased; the hands somewhat loosened their hold. A decrepit male voice breathed against her cheek.

    “You know the divine Mozart?”

    “Of course I know The Magic Flute!” she said, trying to conquer her fear. “I am a singer. Though I must confess, my German is not so good.”

    Still holding her, though more gently now, the man obliged by singing in Italian:

    xxxxxOh long live Sarastro! Sarastro, long living!
    xxxxxTo him our submission we’re joyfully giving!
    xxxxxAnd may he a lifetime of wisdom receive!
    xxxxxFor he is our idol, in whom all believe.

    “Please, please, be quiet!” she whispered. “They will find me!”

    “Who are you? And why are they looking for you?”

    “I am Floria Tosca. My lover was tortured and executed, and I tried to kill myself by leaping from the Castel Sant’Angelo. Somehow, though, I survived, and now I want to live. Someone brought me to this place; they are holding me prisoner. I do not know why; I do not even know where I am.”

    “You are in the depths of hell. The last place you want to be.”

    “Then I need to find my way out!”

    “True enough,” the man said, at last releasing her arm. “And perhaps I can help you. But first, you must pass my test.”

    “Test? What test?”

    Instead of answering, he began to bellow again:

    xxxxxEs lebe Sarastro! Sarastro soll leben!
    xxxxxEr ist es, dem wir uns mit Freuden ergeben!

    The sound echoed throughout the passages, threatening to give away her location.

    “Quiet, please! And if you know the way out of here, I beg you to help me!”

    “We shall see. Not everyone proves worthy.”

    “And what must I do to prove myself?”

    “You will find out, soon enough.”

    She froze, thinking she heard distant voices. After assuring herself there was nothing but silence, she turned back to her invisible companion.

    “Please, I have no time to play games. Won’t you at least tell me who you are?”

    The man laughed harshly. “That is not an easy question: I have been so many people. Some claim I am Giuseppe Balsamo from Palermo. Some call me Colonel Pelligrini of Brandenburg. Some say I am the Wandering Jew. But most know me as . . . Alessandro di Cagliostro.”

    “Cagliostro!” she cried. “I have heard of you!”

    “Of course you have. Who has not heard of Cagliostro the healer, Cagliostro the alchemist, Cagliostro the necromancer? My name was famous throughout all Europe!”

    “But how can this be?” she said, peering into the darkness. “I remember, when I was in Venice, hearing that Cagliostro had died in prison. That must have been four, five years ago.”

    “And do you believe every rumor you hear?”

    “No. For a time, many doubted the report, and believed you were still alive.”

    “And by now they all must think I am dead—as they will think of you before long. But I will fool them all! My master has taught me the great secret, so that I will never die, but remain forever just as you see!”

    With that came the sound of two stones striking, and a small spark. Soon a candle was flickering. In the dim light, Tosca looked through the bars to see a filthy, emaciated man in torn rags with burning eyes, a deeply creased face, and a matted beard. He wore an iron band around his neck, and one leg was shackled to the wall. The ghastly sight made her avert her eyes.

    What she saw next offered a stark contrast. The glow of the candlelight showed the walls of the cell to be covered in drawings. Perfect copies of works by Rembrandt, Rubens, and Titian graced the rough stone surface. In the spaces between appeared strange Masonic symbols: an all-seeing eye, a death’s-head, a two-edged sword, a rising phoenix, a serpent eating its own tail.

    “Oh!” she cried. “They are beautiful! How did you do these?”

    “Easy enough,” he grinned. “I was always an expert forger. When I was younger, I showed old Casanova how I could copy his writing perfectly, even though I did not understand it. I also made money copying great works of art and selling them as the originals.”

    “But how are you able to fashion all this in here?”

    “Ah, that takes a little more doing. I make paint by mixing my piss with rust from the iron bars. Sometimes I use my ****. See this brush? To make it, I used my teeth to rip away pieces of wood from my bed. Then I sewed on a straw and cotton tip.”

    He sat down on a filthy mat, then reached for a loaf of bread and started chewing. She stared, recalling the maggot-ridden filth she had been served recently.

    “You have food!”

    “Yes. What of it?”

    “I am starving!”

    He didn’t respond, but took another bite. Distressed, Tosca crouched down beside the bars.

    “Will you not help me at all? I am in great trouble.”

    “What of that?” he said through a mouthful of food. “I was always in trouble, and I always got out of it. They say that, as a young man in Palermo, I coaxed money from a gullible goldsmith, to create magical charms. Then I led him to Mount Pellegrino on a hunt for a Moorish treasure guarded by demons. There was a flash of smoke, the goldsmith was beaten unconscious . . . and I left town with his money.”

    Cagliostro cackled loudly. Tosca eyed the bread as he went on.

    “Years later, in Paris before the revolution, they said I was involved in a swindle of the libertine Cardinal Rohan, making him believe Queen Marie Antoinette was secretly in love with him. He was tricked into purchasing a priceless diamond necklace she wanted, and of course ended up losing all his money and the necklace as well. All Paris saw the trial, and I spent six months in the Bastille. But in the end, I was acquitted.”

    She let him go on, half listening, hoping he would offer at least a morsel.

    “After that I went to Rome. I should have listened to Casanova’s warning—he told me to stay away, that it was a dangerous place for Freemasons. Soon I was arrested by the Inquisition, charged with heresy and conjuring. The worst of it was, the key witness against me was my own wife, my beloved Serafina.”

    He paused in his chewing, his eyes turning sad.

    “She was so beautiful—only fourteen when I met her. We had been partners for years; she worked her charms on many of the men we duped. But in the end, she testified against me. I was sentenced to death; she was sent to the convent of Santa Apollonia. Poor girl; I hear she went mad there.”

    He trailed off into silence, then gathered himself and went on more forcefully.

    “But still I survived. The Pope realized that putting me to death would outrage the public. But since I knew too many secrets, and foresaw his downfall, he condemned me instead to life in prison. Then when I escaped once, he ordered me moved to the most heavily fortified of castles: San Leo, near Montefeltro.”

    “San Leo?” Tosca looked up, thinking she was finally learning something useful. “So that is where we are now?”

    “No,” he smiled. “That is where everyone thinks I went. In fact, I was never moved at all.”

    She groaned in frustration. “Wherever we are, please help me find my way out! I need to get away. If they catch me, I fear they will keep me prisoner here forever, or even worse, take me back to the Castel Sant’Angelo!”

    He burst out in laughter, nearly choking on his food.

    “What is so funny?”

    “You foolish girl!”

    “What is it?”

    “Do you not know where you are?” He glared at her with burning eyes. “This is the Castel Sant’Angelo. You never left it!”

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  15. #11
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
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    Giuseppe Balsamo, known as Cagliostro, was in fact held prisoner for a time in the Castel'Angelo. History records that he was moved to San Leo and died there in 1795, five years before the events of Tosca.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    The watercolor above is by Cagliostro's fellow Mason and sometime rival, the artist Philippe de Loutherbourg.

  16. #12
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
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    Chapter 5

    His chortling echoed through the stone passageways. As the realization hit her, she sank against the wall in despair.

    The Castel Sant’Angelo. The tomb of Hadrian, the fortress of the popes. That massive circular edifice where her Mario had died. She had been up on the ramparts then. But it was said that the most secure jail cells, the ones for the most important prisoners, were hidden deep in the bowels of the fortress. That must be where she was now.

    So it was all a lie; they had never taken her away to safety. She was still in that grim hell. Truly, a place to abandon all hope.

    Meanwhile Cagliostro begin singing again at full voice:

    xxxxxEs lebe Sarastro! Sarastro soll leben!
    xxxxxEr ist es, dem wir uns mit Freuden ergeben!
    xxxxxStets mög er des Lebens als Weiser sich freun!
    xxxxxEr ist unser Abgott, dem alle sich weihn.

    “Can you not be quiet!” she yelled. The man’s nonsensical clamor was driving her to distraction. Somehow, though, it also served to rouse her from her stupor. Now that she knew where she was, she would work even harder to get away. After listening to hear if her captors were approaching, she turned to her fellow prisoner once again.

    “Listen to me, please. If you help me escape, perhaps I can help you as well. I am a famous opera singer.”

    “I was famous, all over the world!” he said through a mouthful of food. “As an orphan I was raised by the Knights of Malta; I learned their arts, and became an honored brother among them. My fame spread as I travelled to Germany, France, England, and Spain; Poland and Russia; Egypt and Persia; India and Ethiopia!”

    “Yes, yes, but you don’t understand. I know many important people.”

    “I knew important people! I was friend to Casanova, servant to Catherine the Great, spiritual advisor to Louis XVI, physician to Benjamin Franklin!”

    “But I’m trying to explain how I can help you! Perhaps I can use my influence.”

    “I had influence! I have been a leader among the Freemasons, the Rosicrucians, the Illuminati! I opened hospitals and cured the sick with my elixirs! I turned lead into gold with my alchemy! I held séances and raised the spirits at my command! They said it was I who started the French Revolution!”

    “Will you listen to me, please!” she cried. “I do not care about any of that! I want only one thing from you! Please, pay attention. You said you could tell me how to get out of here!”

    “You lie! I never said that! I merely said I could help you.”

    “What? You mean you don’t know the way out?”

    “Is that what you thought I was offering?”

    “Of course! What use can you be, other than telling me how to escape?”

    “You foolish girl, are you mad? Even I could not find my out of this labyrinth!”

    Tosca stared at the man. It took a moment for the realization to sink in. Then she turned away, hanging her head in dejection. This time no new plan came to revive her spirits; all hope was truly lost.

    Meanwhile Cagliostro went on gleefully.

    “Yes, we are trapped here, in the depths of hell! But though I am locked away, I will be remembered always. Mozart, my fellow Mason, knew of my greatness. They tell me that before he died, in his final opera, he immortalized Cagliostro as Sarastro, the wisest of all men!”

    Once more he sang at the top of his lungs:

    xxxxxEs lebe Cagliostro! Cagliostro soll leben!
    xxxxxEr ist es, dem wir uns mit Freuden ergeben!

    “Stop it! Stop it! Please!” she cried, covering her ears.

    He ceased abruptly. The echoes died away, until at last all was silent in the dim stone passageways. Tosca sat huddled in a ball, bereft and forlorn.

    Studying her a moment, the man broke off a large piece of bread and tossed it through the bars. Unable to help herself, she grabbed the morsel off the floor and began devouring it. She desperately wanted to wolf it all down. After a few bites, though, she thought better, and put the remainder in her bodice. All the while, Cagliostro watched her closely.

    “You do not finish it? But I thought you were starving?”

    “I am,” she said. “But I learned growing up as a hungry shepherd girl, do not eat all your food at once. You may need it even more later on.”

    Cagliostro nodded. “You have done well . . . and passed the first test.”

    “That was your test? A piece of stale bread?”

    “Yes, the test I was to give a likely candidate for enlightenment. As I was instructed by my master. Now I will give you the first of the clues that lead to his great discovery.”

    He reached for a scrap of paper and began drawing on it with a makeshift quill.

    “What master? What discovery?”

    Cagliostro smiled as he worked.

    “He goes by many names. He is everyone, and no one. I first met him years ago, in London. He taught me the true ancient Egyptian Rite of Freemasonry, which I later imparted to Masons around the world. And he gave me his great book, filled with dark secrets; alas, the Inquisition took it away from me. But the greatest secret of all, the one he alone knows, is still to be revealed . . . the secret of eternal life!”

    “What are you talking about? No one can live forever.”

    Cagliostro looked at her with a crazed grin.

    “You would not say that if you met my master. He knew Christ and Cleopatra, yet he came to me here less than a year ago, still looking after all this time like a muscular man between forty and fifty years old.”

    He went on diligently with his drawing.

    “He taught me how to draw this sign—made sure I could do it perfectly. I do not know what it means. But it will lead you to the house of Lazarus, he whom Jesus raised—the first among many who will conquer death.”

    “You are mad! I will have none of your foolishness.”

    Cagliostro, unheeding, continued his scribbling.

    “Many have called me mad, and lived to know better. You will find out yourself, once you begin your journey. Beware, though: you are not alone in this quest. There was that other gentleman.”

    “Other gentleman?”

    “Yes, he came to see me not long ago. He too passed the test. You must hurry, or he will find the secret before you!”

    He handed her the drawing. She didn’t want to take it, but decided it was easiest to humor the madman. Idly, she looked down at the scrap.

    The head and bare shoulders of a graceful young woman, her right hand drawn up to her breast, her eyes looking downward to her left. Tosca stared in amazement.

    “But . . . but . . . I know what this is!”

    Just then she heard footsteps and angry voices not far away:

    “She is with the madman!”

    “This way!”

    “Follow me!”

    Lights appeared in the distance; her captors were approaching. Gathering herself, she rose to her feet and hurried into the darkness.

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  18. #13
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
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    Chapter 6

    She raced through the darkness, throwing caution aside. Several times she ran into stone walls, battering herself, but still kept on. All the while she heard voices crying out from close behind.

    “After her!”

    “There she goes!”

    The light from the pursuers actually helped her, enabled her to get her bearings. If nothing else, she knew which directions to avoid. But it seemed as though she were running an eternity in an endless maze. Had she come this way before? Was she going in circles? She had no way of knowing.

    “She went that way! Over there!”

    In her desperation, a forlorn hope came to her mind. Perhaps she could find the Passetto, that carefully guarded secret, known to all—a passage that connected the tunnels of the Castel Sant’Angelo to the Vatican. For centuries it had served as an escape route for embattled popes, allowing them to flee from their lavish splendor to the safety of a garrisoned fortress. Perhaps, if she could just find her way, she could take the reverse route, and eventually surface through a door into St. Peter’s. From the depths of this dark abyss to the soaring majesty under the great dome—heaven and hell within half a mile of each other.

    “There she is!”

    As she entertained this unlikely hope, she saw a hovering light up ahead. Knowing it had to be one of her pursuers, she turned back, then went down a different corridor. After a few steps, though, she saw another light in the distance. Again she changed course, taking a third winding path. But here too, a faint glow signaled that she was going the wrong way. She spun around, but now saw lights approaching from each of the remaining paths. Trapped, with no further options, she stood still, her only hope being that the pursuers would pass her by.

    She was not to be so fortunate. Light fell upon her, and a man cried out.

    “I have found her!”

    The others followed his voice. Soon three rough men, each of them carrying a lantern, converged upon her at once.

    Without a word, they took hold of her. Tosca was lifted off the ground, two of the men gripping her under the arms, the other taking her feet. She cried out and tried to fight back, kicking and screaming, but her captors were too strong.

    With surprising speed, they carried her through a maze of passageways. Lying face up in their grasp, she could make out little; all was a garish blur from the swinging lanterns, the light dancing madly on the stone ceiling as the procession hurried along.

    At last, she was taken through a doorway, then dropped down hard to the floor. Tosca sat up, rearranged her tattered dress as best she could, then looked around. The candle, the straw mat, the wooden bucket; all were there. She realized to her dismay that she was back in her cell.

    “So you have returned at last.”

    She looked up, then shuddered. There stood her keeper. In the dim light, she could see that he had a badly broken nose, a souvenir from the bucket she had jammed on his head. His eyes burned with fury.

    “You fool! You really thought you could escape?”

    Stricken with fear, she nonetheless looked back at him in defiance.

    “It was easy enough to get past you, at any rate!”

    He glared at her, then pointed to his disfigured face.

    “Look what you did to me! Why would you attack me that way?”

    “I will not be a prisoner!”

    “I told you, you were a guest!”

    “A guest who was not free to leave!”

    “For your own protection! How could you be so ungrateful, after I treated you kindly!”

    “You call that kindness? Keeping me prisoner, starving me with rotten food, tormenting me with your interrogations?”

    “You think that was bad? I will teach you the true meaning of torment.”

    He gave a nod to his men. Two of them reached down and took her arms, pulling her to her knees, then turned her around, facing away from the keeper. Another man came up behind her, and with one quick motion ripped away the back of her already torn gown. Tosca cried out, as her back was exposed and the front of the dress barely stayed in place to cover her.

    Anxious, she looked back over her shoulder. The keeper reached out his hand; the other man handed him a long, thin cat o’nine tails. Tosca’s eyes went wide. The keeper took the plaited cords, studying the strands of its knotted thongs. He swung the weapon a few times, testing its weight, then struck it against the wall. The crack echoed like a gunshot throughout the small cell. Tosca gasped, but kept stubbornly silent.

    “This will teach you to behave!”

    She turned her head away, bracing for the impact.

    The whip whisked through the air, then hit her across the shoulders with a sharp report. Tosca gasped as pain such she had never known seared into her back. She arched her head with a shudder, but somehow managed not to cry out in pain. After a moment, she turned her head to face her tormentor. He peered at her intently.

    “You do not cry out? You think you are stronger than I?”

    She glared at him in silence, then turned away once more.

    He muttered an indistinguishable curse. Then he raised his arm, and brought the whip down again with even greater force.

    Tosca groaned and strained against the men holding her arms. The pain coursed through her, but still she managed not to scream. After a few agonized seconds, she looked back once again. The keeper flashed her a grim smile.

    “Ask for mercy, and perhaps I will grant it.”

    She stared at him in loathing.

    “Never! Do your worst, you monster!”

    She turned away once more, determined to give the man no satisfaction.

    Looking down, her eyes fell once again upon the crude letters carved into the patch of new masonry:

    FIN

    The single word marking the tomb of some unknown prisoner. Perhaps this was to be her end as well. If so, she would bear it with courage, as her Mario had done.

    Once more came the swishing sound as the keeper raised his arm. Tosca prepared for what would surely be the cruelest blow yet.

    Suddenly cries were heard from outside the cell.

    “Make way! Make way!”

    Tosca turned her head. The keeper too whirled toward the door. Then, as the footsteps came closer, he reluctantly lowered his whip. The other men released Tosca’s arms; she collapsed to the floor in a heap. After a moment, she managed to get partway up on her knees, clutching her shredded dress in front of her. She looked up at the door.

    The footsteps came to a stop. The door swung open, and bright, flickering light poured in. One by one, a procession of footmen in sumptuous livery, each man carrying a torch, entered the cell. A half dozen strong, they split into two lines on either side of the door, forming an aisle. There they stood at attention, their torches crackling.

    Then a woman appeared in the doorway. She was richly dressed all in black, her face covered by a veil. After a brief pause, she moved with a stately pace past the rows of footmen on either side, until she stood motionless directly in front of Tosca.

    Huddled on the floor, clasping her torn dress, pain burning into her back, Tosca looked up at her. At last, she could bear the uncertainty no longer.

    “Whoever you are, if you are going to kill me, be quick and have done with it!”

    The woman didn’t answer. Instead, she brought her hands up to her veil, then raised it over her head. The dancing torchlight revealed a familiar face, young, with blonde hair and piercing blue eyes. Tosca gasped as she peered at the sad features of the woman known as the most beautiful in Rome.

    “You recognize me, I think?” she said.

    Tosca nodded, too dumbfounded to speak.

    “I am Giulia, Marchesa Attavanti,” she went on. “And I am not here to kill you, Tosca. I am here to ask for your forgiveness . . . and your help.”
    Last edited by Amfortas; July 13th, 2012 at 02:56 PM.

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  20. #14
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
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    Chapter 7

    Huddled on the floor, Tosca looked up into the pale blue eyes of the Marchesa Attavanti. Though she had never met the woman, she recalled how she had wrongly suspected her as a romantic rival, through the machinations of the evil Scarpia.

    “You want my forgiveness? For what?”

    “First of all, for your treatment here.”

    The Marchesa knelt in front of her, then reached out to place a hand on her shoulder. Tosca’s first impulse was to pull away. But the young woman’s soft eyes and gentle touch persuaded her to remain still. The Marchesa turned Tosca around, so that she could examine her back. Seeing the damage there, she let out a long sigh.

    “Someone fetch a cloth and some clean water.”

    One of the jailors hurried out of the cell. As he exited, the blonde woman, still inspecting the injuries, murmured sadly.

    “Oh Trebelli, what have you done?”

    The keeper stepped forward with an angry scowl.

    “It is not my fault. She tried to escape!”

    “You are a jailor. How did you let her get the better of you so easily?”

    The man shuffled in discomfort. “I did not expect it. You told me to treat her as a guest, and so I did.”

    “As a guest?” Tosca cried over her shoulder. “You treated me vilely!”

    “And you attacked me!”

    “You whipped me!”

    “You broke my nose!”

    “It could only improve your face!”

    The man made a lunge toward her, but was restrained by his fellow jailors. The Marchesa spoke to him calmly.

    “No more, Trebelli. You have done enough already. I would not have thought you capable of this.”

    He ceased struggling, then hung his head. Meanwhile the other man returned and set a wooden bucket beside the Marchesa. She pulled out a dripping cloth and wrung it out. Feeling the touch of it on her throbbing back, Tosca recoiled.

    “I am sorry. But it will have to serve until I can get you better treatment.”

    Tosca nodded, then held still and allowed the woman to continue her ministrations. At the first the pain was intense, but soon the gentle dabs brought relief. Meanwhile the Marchesa went on speaking.

    “Difficult as it is, you must try to forgive Trebelli. Yes, he has a rough manner. But I know, deep in his heart, he is a better man than he seems. And I am forever in his debt for helping my brother.”

    Tosca looked back over her shoulder.

    “Angelotti!”

    “Yes. It was Trebelli who made Cesare’s escape possible. Of course, Trebelli would have me believe he did it all for money. But I think he is more noble than he admits. And I know he became friends with Cesare while he was his keeper, came to admire him—as did all men who truly knew my brother.”

    She dipped the cloth back into the water, then once more addressed Tosca’s wounds.

    “You must understand how desperate I was to free Cesare. He had already served three years in the galleys of Naples. Then he escaped to Rome, but when the French garrison here was driven out by the Neapolitan troops, he was arrested and confined here in the Castel Sant’Angelo. For a year I petitioned for his release. Then, recently, the court of Naples sent a brutal new Sicilian police chief.”

    “Scarpia!”

    “Yes, Scarpia, that vile degenerate. He planned to send Cesare back to Naples, surely to his death. I went to him and pleaded for mercy, but I learned, as you did, what sort of favors the man expected in return for his help. I fled from him in horror, all the more determined to rescue my brother.”

    She went on with her soothing touches.

    “At my urging, Trebelli brought Cesare clothes, unfastened his irons, and left his door unlocked. Cesare escaped and made his way to our family chapel in the church of Sant’Andrea, where I had left him women’s clothing to disguise himself. He was to come to me at my villa in Frascati. But someone discovered his escape and fired the cannon, alerting the pursuers. From there, all our plans were dashed.”

    She finished her ministrations, then did her best to tie up the back of Tosca’s torn gown.

    “Trebelli was questioned, tortured by Scarpia. But he managed to convince them he knew nothing. It was only when they captured your Mario and focused their attention on him that they let finally Trebelli go. So you see, he is a good man. If he seems angry, I think it is because all his efforts, all his sacrifice, could not save Cesare's life.”

    At last, the Marchesa concluded her repairs. Tosca turned around to face her.

    “Trebelli acted under your orders? Then why did he tell me nothing? And why did he give me such miserable treatment?”

    “That was not his fault. Blame me, if you must. I told him to keep you here, treat you as a guest, but tell you nothing until I had a chance to talk to you. He is not used to accommodating people under such circumstances; he did the best he knew how.”

    “But why did you not come sooner? It has been . . . how long?”

    “You were brought here on the eighteenth of June. It is now the twenty-sixth.”

    “Eight days? Why did it take you so much time?”

    “I wanted to come to you, Tosca, but I could not. It was too dangerous. All Rome seeks you for the death of Scarpia. His underlings, Spoletta and Sciarrone, lead the search.”

    Tosca felt a sudden flash of rage.

    “Sciarrone! He presided over Mario’s torture, while I had to watch and listen. And Spoletta! He conspired in Mario’s death! Scarpia gave him the order for the false execution in my presence. ‘Just like Palmieri,’ he said. I can still see Spoletta’s oily smile as he repeated the words. He knew exactly what Scarpia really meant—that Mario was to die! How I hate him!”

    The Marchesa nodded in sympathy.

    “Spoletta has been appointed acting police chief in Scarpia’s place, but Sciarrone is not happy about it, and will use any chance to supplant him. Each of them wants to capture you to strengthen his own position. That is why I could not come here, or even send or receive a messenger. Whenever anyone left my palazzo, they were followed by Spoletta’s sbirri.”

    Tosca shuddered at the mention of the infamous Roman police, more brigands and thugs than officers of the law.

    “How do you know the sbirri followed you?”

    “Because my men followed the sbirri. For the past year, my brother has been a political prisoner here in Rome. I have had to learn to be resourceful.”

    She rose to her feet.

    “Only recently have they given up, no longer holding me under suspicion. And when a breathless messenger came to me an hour ago, saying you had escaped and were wandering somewhere among the dungeons, it seemed the time had come to take the risk. My men came prepared to help look for you. Now that will not be necessary.”

    Tosca nodded, then thought a moment.

    “But why have you gone to all this trouble? Why rescue me at all, and why protect me?” She peered intently at the blonde woman. “Along with my forgiveness, you also said you need my help?”

    “Yes. And I will explain, soon enough. But that must wait. Right now, we need to get you out of here.”

    “After holding me here so long, now you are in a hurry?”

    “Unfortunately, yes. Up until now, the Castel Sant’Angelo has been the safest place to hide you—the last place Spoletta would think to look. But no longer. These cells are for the most dangerous political prisoners. There have not been any new arrivals lately, but I have learned that more are coming tonight, along with their guards. We have to move right now.”

    With effort, Tosca managed to stand up.

    “That is fine with me; all I have wanted is to leave this place. But I can go nowhere with my gown torn like this.”

    “Nor would it be wise to remove you dressed as you are. That is why we have brought you a disguise.”

    She called over her shoulder.

    “Trivulce!”

    From behind her, a gaunt, effete-looking man in fancy dress and a powdered wig stepped forward. Tosca had heard of the man, and didn’t like the look of him. He handed some folded clothing to the Marchesa, who turned once more to Tosca.

    “You must put these on.”

    Tosca took the garments, then unfolded and examined them.

    “But . . . these are men’s clothes!”

    The Marchesa nodded.

    “My brother escaped dressed as a woman. Can you not become a man, to save your life?”

    Tosca frowned. She looked at the clothing, then at the Marchesa, then at the roomful of people surrounding her.

    “Very well then. But all of you must leave, and let me change.”
    Last edited by Amfortas; September 1st, 2012 at 12:24 AM.

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  22. #15
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
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    Marchesa Attavanti is an important figure in both Sardou's play and Puccini's opera, though in neither work does she appear onstage. Sardou indicates that she too, like Tosca, was subject to Scarpia's vile advances. He also gives an account of how she bribed the jailor Trebelli to free her brother Angelotti.

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