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  1. #1
    Schigolch
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    Tosca: The Genesis of the Opera

    Puccini started to think about composing an opera about Tosca, just after watching some performances of Sardou's drama in Milan, starring the diva Sara Bernhardt, in 1889.

    However, he got busy with his Manon Lescaut, and in the meanwhile Ricordi acquired the rights for an operatic adaptation from Sardou, and hired the Italian composer Alberto Franchetti to write Tosca, with a libretto by Luigi Illica.


    Alberto Franchetti

    But neither Franchetti was enthusiastic about the project, nor Puccini was ever to forget about Tosca. In due time, Illica, who was also the librettist of Manon Lescaut, convinced Franchetti to resign in favour of Puccini. As in La Bohème, Illica will be paired with Giuseppe Giacosa to provide the libretto of Tosca.


    Giuseppe Giacosa

    Giacosa was the senior partner in years, and also a playwright, journalist and professor. He was more centered in finding the right verses, the best words for accommodating Puccini's music. He was also a patient man, an important quality working with people like Puccini and Illica.


    Luigi Illica

    Illica was the responsible of providing the dramatic pulse. He was also a journalist and playwright himself, though his standing in those two fields was inferior to Giacosa's. His main objective was always to design the best background for enhancing the drama with the music. As a librettist, he was very succesful, and was required as a partner by many composers of the period.

    Puccini shared with Sardou his advances on Tosca, visiting the writer at his home in Paris. They were basically in agreement about everything. Later, Sardou even recognised that Puccini's opera was better than his play. Fair enough, in fact if Sardou is remembered today, it's basically for Tosca's opera adaptation. Famously, George Bernard Shaw has said of Sardou's La Tosca premiere: "Such an empty-headed ghost of a shocker...Oh, if it had but been an opera!".

    However, Sardou had two reservations. First, he tried to convince Puccini that Cavaradossi should sing in the Third Act a patriotic hymn, rather than a love song. Fortunately, Puccini prevailed and we were given one of Tosca's highlights, the wonderful aria, "E lucevan le stelle". Sung below by Aureliano Pertile:



    Then, Sardou insisted than the death of Tosca must be sudden, a quick affair, while Puccini preferred a slower and more deliberate scene. Here, they were able to find middle ground, though rather more adjusted to Sardou's vision than Puccini's.

    When Puccini shared the first version of the score with his editorial house, Ricordi, it was not well received in its entirety. The major concern was for the last act, that was rather ‘non dramatic’ in their opinion, functioning like an anti-climax after the powerful clash between Tosca and Scarpia.

    The Cavaradossi-Tosca duet was deemed to be rather bland and uninspired (those were the same guys that, some years later, will approve of the ending created by Alfano for Turandot). Puccini remain unconvinced, and in a visit with Toscanini to Ricordi, would insist that the score will not be changed.

    Let's hear Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna in this duet, where they are sounding... yes, bland.

    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); August 18th, 2012 at 11:57 AM.

  2. #2
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schigolch View Post
    Then, Sardou insisted than the death of Tosca must be sudden, a quick affair, while Puccini preferred a slower and more deliberate scene. Here, they were able to find middle ground, though rather more adjusted to Sardou's vision than Puccini's.
    At least they agreed that Tosca should commit suicide, as opposed to the librettists Illica and Giacosa:

    "Puccini's librettists also disliked the suicide, and an alternate ending for the opera was (briefly) considered: rather than leap, Tosca would go mad, collapse, and die on the body of her lover." - Susan Vandiver Nicassio, Ten Things You Didn't Know About Tosca

  3. #3
    Senior Member Involved Member Bardamu's Avatar
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    An interesting article about the genesis of Tosca with some excerpt from the letters of Puccini,Ricordi (Giulio) and Giacosa.
    http://www.rodoni.ch/proscenio/carte...ca/genesi.html

  4. #4
    Schigolch
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    One of the characters ripped from the play, was none other than the composer Giovanni Paisiello, the author of many operas and also in the service of Ferdinand IV of Naples at the time of the action in Tosca, when he is supposed to be also writing a cantata Floria Tosca must sing for the Queen Marie Caroline.

    Let's hear some Paisiello's cantatas:


  5. #5
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
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    Paisiello was by all accounts a very unpleasant person, famously jealous of his fellow composers. He appears in an unflattering light in Sardou's play, an obsequious phony trying to get back in favor with the King and Queen of Naples, after having offended them by writing a national anthem during the short-lived Parthenopean Republic. As Queen Marie-Caroline says, "Paisiello has done a lot of stupid things for which he seeks forgiveness." Tosca has no patience with the man, calling him "old goat" and "old monkey."
    Last edited by Amfortas; July 31st, 2012 at 09:42 PM.

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