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On This Day – January 14

Today we return to the world of Opera, and look at one of the staples of the genre. This dramatic 3-act opera appears as number 8 in Opera America’s 20 most-performed Operas. Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca, premiered on this day in 1900.

Based on La Tosca by Victorien Sardou, Puccini was inspired after seeing a performance in Milan in 1887 with Sarah Bernhardt playing the role of Tosca. Puccini asked his editor, Giulio Ricordi, to buy the rights to the play, however in 1893 these were given to a different composer, Alberto Franchetti. Luigi Illica wrote the libretto, and presented it to Sardou in 1894 in a meeting with Franchetti, Ricordi, and Giuseppe Verdi. While fascinated by the tragedy, Verdi refused to compose music for the libretto unless the ending was changed. After a few months, Franchetti admitted he was unable to compose music for the work, and as such Ricordi asked Puccini to do it. Though still offended, Verdi’s intercession convinced him and he started working on it in 1896.

Ricordi set Giuseppe Giacosa to work with Illica for the libretto, but there were problems as he did not perform to Ricordi’s standards, had several personal disputes with Sardou, while Puccini had disputes with Illica, Giacosa and Ricordi. Finally, after three years of difficult collaboration, it was finally ready for production in October 1899. It premiered at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome on the 14th of January, 1900.

Here, I leave it to San Diego Opera Talk!’s Nick Reveles to introduce us more to Puccini’s “shabby little shocker.”

Tosca played an important part in the latest Bond film, Quantum of Solace. While still out in the movies, clips have already made it to Youtube. Here is the scene with Bond at a performance of Tosca set in the Festspielhaus Bregenz, Austria.

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