|Front cover of the original 1899 libretto
Puccini's Tosca, one of the most popular operas in the repertoire ever since its January 14, 1900 premiere, is a violent drama based on Victorien Sardou's hit play La Tosca, which was written as a star vehicle for the famous French actress Sarah Bernhardt. In the translation from play to opera, the action was tightened, the characters were "Italianized," and most of the political motivation was cut. The action of the play and the opera takes place in Rome between noon of June 17, 1800 and dawn the following day, during which time all of the major characters die violent deaths.
|Sarah Bernhardt in the role of Tosca in play by Victorian Sardou , in 1899 ,
Puccini saw Sardou's play when it was touring Italy in 1889 and, after some vacillation, obtained the rights to turn the work into an opera in 1895. The dramatic force of Tosca and its characters continues to fascinate both performers and audiences, and the work remains one of the most frequently performed operas.
Anthony Tommasini, classical music critic of The New York Times, demonstrates how Puccini's use of motifs with various characters and elements in "Tosca" enhance the emotional power of the work.
The wonderful and moving aria "Vissi d'arte" is the aria from act 2. It is sung by Floria Tosca as she thinks of her fate, how the life of her beloved, Mario Cavaradossi, is at the mercy of Baron Scarpia and why God has seemingly abandoned her.