Giacomo Puccini, in full Giacomo
Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini (born December 22,
1858, Lucca, Tuscany [Italy]—died November 29, 1924, Brussels,
Belgium), Italian composer, one of the greatest exponents of
operatic realism, who virtually brought the history of Italian opera
to an end. His mature operas include La Bohème (1896), Tosca (1900),
Madama Butterfly (1904), and Turandot, left incomplete.
Early life and marriage
Puccini was the last descendant of a family that for two centuries
had provided the musical directors of the Cathedral of San Martino
in Lucca. Puccini initially dedicated himself to music, therefore,
not as a personal vocation but as a family profession. He was
orphaned at the age of five by the death of his father, and the
municipality of Lucca supported the family with a small pension and
kept the position of cathedral organist open for Giacomo until he
came of age. He first studied music with two of his father’s former
pupils, and he played the organ in small local churches. A
performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida, which he saw in Pisa in 1876,
convinced him that his true vocation was opera. In the autumn of
1880 he went to study at the Milan Conservatory, where his principal
teachers were Antonio Bazzini, a famous violinist and composer of
chamber music, and Amilcare Ponchielli, the composer of the opera La
gioconda. On July 16, 1883, he received his diploma and presented as
his graduation composition Capriccio sinfonico, an instrumental work
that attracted the attention of influential musical circles in
Milan. In the same year, he entered Le villi in a competition for
one-act operas. The judges did not think Le villi worthy of
consideration, but a group of friends, led by the
composer-librettist Arrigo Boito, subsidized its production, and its
premiere took place with immense success at Milan’s Verme Theatre on
May 31, 1884. Le villi was remarkable for its dramatic power, its
operatic melody, and, revealing the influence of Richard Wagner’s
works, the important role played by the orchestra. The music
publisher Giulio Ricordi immediately acquired the copyright, with
the stipulation that the opera be expanded to two acts. He also
commissioned Puccini to write a new opera for La Scala and gave him
a monthly stipend: thus began Puccini’s lifelong association with
Giulio Ricordi, who was to become a staunch friend and counselor.
After the death of his mother,
Puccini fled from Lucca with a married woman, Elvira Gemignani.
Finding in their passion the courage to defy the truly enormous
scandal generated by their illegal union, they lived at first in
Monza, near Milan, where a son, Antonio, was born. In 1890 they
moved to Milan, and in 1891 to Torre del Lago, a fishing village on
Lake Massaciuccoli in Tuscany. This home was to become Puccini’s
refuge from life, and he remained there until three years before his
death, when he moved to Viareggio. But living with Elvira proved
difficult. Tempestuous rather than compliant, she was justifiably
jealous and was not an ideal companion. The two were finally able to
marry in 1904, after the death of Elvira’s husband. Puccini’s second
opera, Edgar, based on a verse drama by the French writer Alfred de
Musset, had been performed at La Scala in 1889, and it was a
failure. Nevertheless, Ricordi continued to have faith in his
protégé and sent him to Bayreuth in Germany to hear Wagner’s Die
Giacomo Puccini, 1908.
Mature work and fame
Puccini returned from Bayreuth with the plan for Manon Lescaut,
based, like the Manon of the French composer Jules Massenet, on the
celebrated 18th-century novel by the Abbé Prévost. Beginning with
this opera, Puccini carefully selected the subjects for his operas
and spent considerable time on the preparation of the librettos. The
psychology of the heroine in Manon Lescaut, as in succeeding works,
dominates the dramatic nature of Puccini’s operas. Puccini, in
sympathy with his public, was writing to move them so as to assure
his success. The score of Manon Lescaut, dramatically alive,
prefigures the operatic refinements achieved in his mature operas:
La Bohème, Tosca, Madama Butterfly, and La fanciulla del west (1910;
The Girl of the Golden West). These four mature works also tell a
moving love story, one that centres entirely on the feminine
protagonist and ends in a tragic resolution. All four speak the same
refined and limpid musical language of the orchestra that creates
the subtle play of thematic reminiscences. The music always emerges
from the words, indissolubly bound to their meaning and to the
images they evoke. In Bohème, Tosca, and Butterfly, he collaborated
enthusiastically with the writers Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica.
The first performance (February 17, 1904) of Madama Butterfly was a
fiasco, probably because the audience found the work too much like
Puccini’s preceding operas. For a 1908 recording of Emma Eames
singing “Vissi d’arte” from Tosca, see Emma Eames.
In 1908, having spent the summer in
Cairo, the Puccinis returned to Torre del Lago, and Giacomo devoted
himself to Fanciulla. Elvira unexpectedly became jealous of Doria
Manfredi, a young servant from the village who had been employed for
several years by the Puccinis. She drove Doria from the house
threatening to kill her. Subsequently, the servant girl poisoned
herself, and her parents had the body examined by a physician, who
declared her a virgin. The Manfredis brought charges against Elvira
Puccini for persecution and calumny, creating one of the most famous
scandals of the time. Elvira was found guilty, but through the
negotiations of the lawyers was not sentenced, and Puccini paid
damages to the Manfredis, who withdrew their accusations. Eventually
the Puccinis adjusted themselves to a coexistence, but the composer
from then on demanded absolute freedom of action.
The premiere of La fanciulla del
west took place at the Metropolitan in New York City on December 10,
1910, with Arturo Toscanini conducting. It was a great triumph, and
with it Puccini reached the end of his mature period. He admitted
“writing an opera is difficult.” For one who had been the typical
operatic representative of the turn of the century, he felt the new
century advancing ruthlessly with problems no longer his own. He did
not understand contemporary events, such as World War I. In 1917 at
Monte-Carlo in Monaco, Puccini’s opera La rondine was first
performed and then was quickly forgotten.
Always interested in contemporary
operatic compositions, Puccini studied the works of Claude Debussy,
Richard Strauss, Arnold Schoenberg, and Igor Stravinsky. From this
study emerged Il trittico (The Triptych; New York City, 1918), three
stylistically individual one-act operas—the melodramatic Il tabarro
(The Cloak), the sentimental Suor Angelica, and the comic Gianni
Schicchi. His last opera, based on the fable of Turandot as told in
the play Turandot by the 18th-century Italian dramatist Carlo Gozzi,
is the only Italian opera in the Impressionistic style. Puccini did
not complete Turandot, unable to write a final grand duet on the
triumphant love between Turandot and Calaf. Suffering from cancer of
the throat, he was ordered to Brussels for surgery, and a few days
afterward he died with the incomplete score of Turandot in his
Turandot was performed posthumously
at La Scala on April 25, 1926, and Arturo Toscanini, who conducted
the performance, concluded the opera at the point Puccini had
reached before dying. Two final scenes were completed by Franco
Alfano from Puccini’s sketches.
Solemn funeral services were held
for Puccini at La Scala in Milan, and his body was taken to Torre
del Lago, which became the Puccini Pantheon. Shortly afterward,
Elvira and Antonio were also buried there. The Puccini house became
a museum and an archive.
The majority of Puccini’s operas illustrate a theme defined in Il
tabarro: “Chi ha vissuto per amore, per amore si morì” (“He who has
lived for love, has died for love”). This theme is played out in the
fate of his heroines—women who are devoted body and soul to their
lovers, are tormented by feelings of guilt, and are punished by the
infliction of pain until in the end they are destroyed. In his
treatment of this theme, Puccini combines compassion and pity for
his heroines with a strong streak of sadism: hence the strong
emotional appeal but also the restricted scope of the Puccinian type
The main feature of Puccini’s
musicodramatic style is his ability to identify himself with his
subject; each opera has its distinctive ambience. With an unfailing
instinct for balanced dramatic structure, Puccini knew that an opera
is not all action, movement, and conflict; it must also contain
moments of repose, contemplation, and lyricism. For such moments he
invented an original type of melody, passionate and radiant, yet
marked by an underlying morbidity; examples are the “farewell” and
“death” arias that also reflect the persistent melancholy from which
he suffered in his personal life.
Puccini’s approach to dramatic
composition is expressed in his own words: “The basis of an opera is
its subject and its treatment.” The fashioning of a story into a
moving drama for the stage claimed his attention in the first place,
and he devoted to this part of his work as much labour as to the
musical composition itself. The action of his operas is
uncomplicated and self-evident, so that the spectator, even if he
does not understand the words, readily comprehends what is taking
place on the stage.
Puccini’s conception of diatonic
melody is rooted in the tradition of 19th-century Italian opera, but
his harmonic and orchestral style indicate that he was also aware of
contemporary developments, notably the work of the Impressionists
and of Stravinsky. Though he allowed the orchestra a more active
role, he upheld the traditional vocal style of Italian opera, in
which the singers carry the burden of the music. In many ways a
typical fin de siècle artist, Puccini nevertheless can be ranked as
the greatest exponent of operatic realism.
Giacomo Puccini, 1908
Puccini wrote orchestral pieces,
sacred music, chamber music and songs for voice and piano, most
notably his 1880 mass Messa di gloria and his 1890 string quartet
Crisantemi. However, he is primarily known for his operas:
Le Villi, libretto by Ferdinando
Fontana (in one act – premiered at the Teatro Dal Verme, 31 May
Edgar, libretto by Ferdinando Fontana (in four acts – premiered at
La Scala, 21 April 1889)
Manon Lescaut, libretto by Luigi Illica, Marco Praga and Domenico
Oliva (premiered at the Teatro Regio, 1 February 1893)
La bohème, libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa (premiered
at the Teatro Regio of Torino, 1 February 1896)
Tosca, libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa (premiered at
the Teatro Costanzi, 14 January 1900)
Madama Butterfly, libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa (in
two acts – premiered at La Scala, 17 February 1904)
La fanciulla del West, libretto by Guelfo Civinini and Carlo
Zangarini (premiered at the Metropolitan Opera, 10 December 1910)
La rondine, libretto by Giuseppe Adami (premiered at the Opéra of
Monte Carlo, 27 March 1917)
Il trittico (premiered at the Metropolitan Opera, 14 December 1918)
Il tabarro, libretto by Giuseppe Adami
Suor Angelica, libretto by Giovacchino Forzano
Gianni Schicchi, libretto by Giovacchino Forzano
Turandot, libretto by Renato Simoni and Giuseppe Adami (incomplete
at the time of Puccini's death, completed by Franco Alfano:
premiered at La Scala, 25 April 1926)
Born in the Italian town of
Lucca into family with a strong musical tradition. Puccini was
encouraged to develop an interest in music from a very early
age. His father started him playing the organ, reportedly by
placing shiny coins on the keyboard which tempted the young boy
to grasp them and thus push the keys down. At school he showed
little promise or dedication, preferring the company of friends
and indulging a taste for practical jokes that were often both
complicated and theatrical.
After moving to the local music
conservatoire, the Pacini Institute, Puccini's academic record
began to improve, and by the age of 16 he was showing an
increasing interest in composing and improvising at the organ.
In 1876 he walked for seven hours to the town of Pisa in order
to attend a performance of Verdi's Aida, despite not possessing
the price of a ticket. The opera awoke in Puccini a sense of the
power of theatrical music, and with the help of a scholarship
endowed by none other than the queen of Italy, he was able to
enrol at the Milan Conservatoire in 1880, at that time the
country's biggest and most prestigious music college.
Puccini's first opera, Le villi,
was produced in 1884, but it was not until Manon Lescaut in 1893
that he had a major success. This work set the tone for his
celebrated later works by concentrating on the psychology of its
female heroine. It was followed in 1896 by one of Puccini's
best-loved works, La boheme (1896), produced in Turin. This tale
of the exploits of aspiring artists in the bohemian world of
mid-nineteenth-century Paris reflects Puccini's experiences in
Milan, and subtly marries sentiment with comedy and tragedy.
These qualities, along with its masterly characterization and
what Debussy called the "sheer verve of the music", have
guaranteed its place over the years as one of the most popular
The string of successes
continued with his next two operas, Tosca (1900) and Madama
Butterfly (1904). Tosca was first performed in Rome in an
atmosphere of high tension. The work's anti-authoritarian stance
and disrespectful portrait of the clergy fuelled rumours that a
bomb was to be thrown. The premiere passed peacefully, however,
and Tosca achieved great success with the public who enjoyed the
melodramatic, even sadistic plot, and the composer's unerring
sense of timing. In Butterfly, which rivals La Boheme and Tosca
in popularity, Puccini achieved his most successful
psychological characterization. The part of the heroine — the
Japanese geisha who kills herself for love of the callous
American Lieutenant Pinkerton — requires exceptional vocal and
acting skill from the soprano singing the title role.
Puccini's next opera was La
fanciulla del West (The girl of the Golden West), first produced
in New York in 1910. A raw, rip-roaring drama set in the
American Wild West, it was a triumphant success under the
guidance of conductor Arturo Toscanini. La fanciulla was
followed by La rondine (The swallow) and a trio of varied
one-act operas — Il tabarro (The overcoat), Suor Angelica
(Sister Angelica) and Gianni Schicchi, known collectively as Il
trittico — before the composer started work on his final work,
Puccini died of cancer before
he was able to complete this work, the gruesome story of the
wooing of Turandot, Princess of Peking, by an unknown prince who
wins her through his courage and persistence. It is performed in
a version completed by Franco Alfano. In Turandot, as in all the
composer's operas, drama laden with erotic passion, tenderness,
pathos, and despair is combined with music of breathtaking
melodic invention. The mixture has ensured that the works of
Puccini, the true successor to Verdi, continue to occupy a place
at the centre of the operatic repertoire.
2. Dueto: "Non sono in vena"
3. Ária: "Che gelida manina!"
4. Ária: "Si. Mi chiamano Mimí"
5. Dueto de amor: "O soave fanciulla"
6. Dueto: "Mimí"
7. Trio: "Marcello, finalmente!"
8. Ária: "D'onde lieta uscí"
9. Dueto "Sono andati?"
10. Final: "Mimí"
12. Dueto: "Dovunque al mondo"
13. Dueto: "Amore o grillo"Arrivèe de Madame Butterfly
14. "Quanto cielo, quanto mar!"
15. Dueto de amor: "Bimba dagli occhi pieni di malia"
16. Ária: "Un bel di vedremo"Scene de la carte
17. "Amico, cercherete quel bel fior di fanciulla"
18. Ária e Final: "Con onor muore"
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Manon Lescaut - 1893
Manon Lescaut is an opera in four acts
by Giacomo Puccini. The story is based on the 1731 novel L’histoire
du chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut by the Abbé Prévost and
should not be confused with Manon, an 1884 opera by Jules Massenet
based on the same novel.
The libretto is in Italian, and was
cobbled together by five librettists whom Puccini employed: Ruggero
Leoncavallo, Marco Praga, Giuseppe Giacosa, Domenico Oliva and Luigi
Illica. The publisher, Giulio Ricordi, and the composer himself also
contributed to the libretto. So confused was the authorship of the
libretto that no one was credited on the title page of the original
score. However, it was Illica and Giacosa who completed the libretto
and went on to contribute the libretti to Puccini's next three – and
most successful – works, La Bohème, Tosca and Madama Butterfly.
Puccini took some musical elements
in Manon Lescaut from earlier works he had written. For example, the
madrigal Sulla vetta tu del monte from Act II echoes the Agnus Dei
from his 1880 Messa a quattro voci. Other elements of Manon Lescaut
come from his compositions for strings: the quartet Crisantemi
(January 1890), three Menuets (probably 1884) and a Scherzo (1883?).
The love theme comes from the aria Mentia l'avviso (1883).
Postcard commemorating the 1 February 1893 premiere.
Puccini's publisher, Ricordi, had been against any project based on
Prévost's story because Jules Massenet had already made it into a
successful opera, Manon, in 1884. While Puccini and Ricordi may not
have known it, the French composer Daniel Auber had also already
written an opera on the same subject with the title Manon Lescaut,
Despite all the warnings, Puccini
proceeded. "Manon is a heroine I believe in and therefore she cannot
fail to win the hearts of the public. Why shouldn’t there be two
operas about Manon? A woman like Manon can have more than one
lover." He added, "Massenet feels it as a Frenchman, with powder and
minuets. I shall feel it as an Italian, with a desperate passion."
The first performance of Manon
Lescaut took place in the Teatro Regio in Turin on 1 February 1893;
it was Puccini's third opera and his first great success. The opera
was first performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York on 18
January 1907 in the presence of the composer with Lina Cavalieri in
the title role, Enrico Caruso as Des Grieux, Antonio Scotti as
Lescaut, and Arturo Vigna conducting.
Time: The second half of the eighteenth century.
Places: Amiens, Paris, Le Havre, New Orleans.
A public square near the Paris Gate
It is evening, and a crowd of male students and girls are strolling
about a square known for drinking and gaming. Edmondo sings a song
of youthful pleasure (Edmondo, chorus: Ave, sera gentile).
Des Grieux enters, but is
melancholic and does not join the other students (Des Grieux,
Edmondo, chorus: L’amor! L’amor!). They joke with him (Des Grieux,
Edmondo, chorus: Tra voi, belle, brune e bionde) ; (Edmondo, chorus:
The carriage from Arras arrives.
Manon Lescaut, and an elderly treasurer-general, Geronte de Ravoir,
descend from the coach. At the first sight of Manon, Des Grieux
falls in love with her (Chorus, Edmondo, Lescaut, Des Grieux,
Geronte: Discendono, vediam); (Des Grieux, Manon, Lescaut: Cortese
Des Grieux overhears their
conversation: Manon is on her way to a convent, following the
instructions of her father. Des Grieux approaches her and begs her
to meet him later; she reluctantly agrees. The students laugh,
pointing at the pair. After Manon leaves, Des Grieux sings of his
feelings for her (Des Grieux: Donna non vidi mai).
Lescaut returns with Geronte, who
also is captivated by Manon, saying she would only be wasted in a
convent. While Lescaut is playing cards with a group of students,
Geronte arranges to abduct Manon and take her to Paris (Edmondo,
chorus, Geronte, Lescaut: La tua ventura ci rassicura); (Edmondo,
Des Grieux: Cavaliere, te la fanno!).
Edmondo overhears the plan and
informs Des Grieux. He advises him to accompany Manon in the
carriage arranged by Geronte (Des Grieux, Manon: Vedete? Io son
fedele alla parola mia). Des Grieux declares his love to Manon and
persuades her to go to Paris with him. They leave together. Geronte
and Lescaut arrive on the scene as they disappear, and Lescaut
proposes that they follow the carriage to Paris. (Geronte, Edmondo,
Lescaut, chorus: Di sedur la sorellina e il momento!)
A room in Geronte's house in Paris
(Puccini omits the part of the novel in which Manon and Des Grieux
live together for a while, then Manon leaves Des Grieux because his
money runs out.)
The act begins with Manon as
Geronte's mistress. Manon and her hairdresser are in the room when
Lescaut enters (Manon, Lescaut: Dispettosetto questo riccio!); (Lescaut:
Sei splendida e lucente!). She tells him that Geronte is too old and
wicked; he bores her. Manon is sad, and her thoughts turn to Des
Grieux (Manon: In quelle trine morbide); (Lescaut, Manon: Poiché tu
Musicians arranged by Geronte enter
to amuse her (Madrigal: Sulla vetta tu del monte); (Manon, Lescaut:
Paga costor). Geronte brings a dancing master; they dance a minuet,
then she sings a gavotte (Dancing master, Geronte, Manon, chorus: Vi
prego, signorina [minuet]); (Manon, Geronte, chorus: L’ora, o Tirsi,
è vaga e bella). After dancing, Geronte and the musicians leave the
Lescaut is upset knowing that his
sister is not happy living with Geronte, and he goes to find Des
Grieux. Des Grieux appears in Geronte’s house (Manon, Des Grieux:
Oh, sarò la più bella! – This love's own magic spell). As they renew
their vows of love, Geronte returns unexpectedly. He salutes them
ironically, reminding Manon of his many favors to her. She replies
that she cannot love him (Geronte, Des Grieux, Manon: Affè,
Bowing low, he leaves them. The
lovers rejoice in their freedom (Manon, Des Grieux: Ah! Ah! Liberi!).
Lescaut urges them to leave the house at once, but Manon hesitates
at the thought of leaving her jewels and pretty frocks. Again,
Lescaut enters in breathless haste, making signs that they must
depart immediately. Manon snatches up her jewels, and they go to the
door. It is locked by Geronte's order. Soldiers appear to arrest
Manon, who, in trying to escape, drops the jewels at Geronte's feet.
She is dragged off, and Des Grieux is not permitted to follow her
(Des Grieux, Manon, Lescaut, sergeant, Geronte: Lescaut! – Tu qui?).
(Intermezzo: The journey to Le
After trying everything to release
Manon from the prison but to no avail, Des Grieux goes to Le Havre.
A square near the harbor in Le Havre
It is dawn. Manon is in prison with other courtesans (Des Grieux,
Lescaut, Manon: Ansia eterna, crudel). Lescaut has bribed a prison
guard to let Des Grieux speak with Manon. By talking to her through
the bars, they learn that she is to be deported to Louisiana. A
lamplighter passes, singing a song while he extinguishes the lights
(Lamplighter, Des Grieux, Manon: E Kate ripose al re); (Des Grieux,
Manon: Manon, disperato è il mio prego).
They attempt a rescue, but in vain.
The guard appears, escorting a group of women, who are going on the
same ship as Manon. She walks among them, pale and sad. The crowd
makes brutal comments during the roll call of the courtesans
(Chorus, Lescaut, Des Grieux, Manon: All'armi! All'armi!) but
Lescaut inspires pity for Manon (Sergeant, chorus, Lescaut, Manon,
Des Grieux: Rosetta! – Eh, che aria!)
Des Grieux, in despair at the idea
of being separated from Manon forever, goes to Manon's side. He
tries to seize her but is roughly pushed away by the sergeant.
However, the captain of the ship sees his intense grief (Des Grieux:
Pazzo son!) and allows him to board the ship.
A vast plain near the outskirts of the New Orleans territory
The act begins with the lovers
making their way across the desert hoping to find protection in a
British settlement. Wandering in the desert without any water, the
ailing Manon is exhausted. She falls and cannot go any farther (Des
Grieux, Manon: Tutta su me ti posa) ; (Des Grieux: Vedi, son io che
piango) ; (Manon, Des Grieux: Sei tu che piangi).
Des Grieux is alarmed by Manon's
appearance and goes to look for water. While he is gone, Manon
recalls her past and muses about her fatal beauty and her fate (Manon:
Sola, perduta, abbandonata).
Des Grieux returns, having been
unable to find water. Manon bids him a heart-rending farewell and
dies in his arms. Overcome by grief, Des Grieux falls unconscious
across her body (Manon, Des Grieux: Fra le tue braccia, amore).
The opera is scored for piccolo (doubling 3rd flute), two flutes,
two oboes, cor anglais, two clarinets, bass clarinet, two bassoons,
four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, bass tuba, timpani,
triangle, drum, tamtam, bass drum, cymbals, glockenspiel, celesta,
harp, and strings, together with offstage flute, offstage cornet,
offstage bell, offstage drum, and offstage sleigh bells.
Maria Callas. Sola, perduta,
abbandonata. Manon Lescaut. Giacomo Puccini.
Maria Callas, soprano.
Dir. Tullio Serafin.
Love duet - Manon Lescaut - Puccini
Des Grieux: Domingo
Luciano Pavarotti - Donna non vidi mai ('Manon Lescaut') (live,
Luciano Pavarotti sings "Donna non vidi mai ('Manon Lescaut')" live
from "Olympic Hall" in Munich, 1986, German TV
Original 1896 La bohème poster by Adolfo Hohenstein
La boheme - 1896
La bohème is an opera in four acts, composed by Giacomo Puccini
to an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, based
on Scènes de la vie de bohème by Henri Murger. The world
premiere performance of La bohème was in Turin on 1 February 1896 at
the Teatro Regio, conducted by the young Arturo Toscanini. Since
then, La bohème has become part of the standard Italian opera
repertory and is one of the most frequently performed operas
In 1946, fifty years after the opera's premiere, Toscanini
conducted a performance of it on radio with the NBC Symphony
Orchestra. This performance was eventually released on records and
on Compact Disc. It is the only recording of a Puccini opera by its
Origin of the story
According to its title page, the libretto of La bohème is based on
Henri Murger's novel, Scènes de la vie de bohème, a collection of
vignettes portraying young bohemians living in the Latin Quarter of
Paris in the 1840s. Although usually called a novel, it has no
unified plot. Like the 1849 play by Murger and Théodore Barrière,
the opera's libretto focuses on the relationship between Rodolfo and
Mimì, ending with her death. Also like the play, the libretto
combines two characters from the novel, Mimì and Francine, into a
single Mimì character. Early in the composition stage Puccini was in
dispute with the composer Leoncavallo, who said that he had offered
Puccini a completed libretto and felt that Puccini should defer to
him. Puccini responded that he had had no idea of Leoncavallo's
interest and that having been working on his own version for some
time, he felt that he could not oblige him by discontinuing with the
opera. Leoncavallo completed his own version in which Marcello was
sung by a tenor and Rodolfo by a baritone. It was unsuccessful and
is now rarely performed.
Much of the libretto is original. The main plots of acts two and
three are the librettists' invention, with only a few passing
references to incidents and characters in Murger. Most of acts one
and four follow the novel, piecing together episodes from various
chapters. The final scenes in acts one and four—the scenes with
Rodolfo and Mimì—resemble both the play and the novel. The story of
their meeting closely follows chapter 18 of the novel, in which the
two lovers living in the garret are not Rodolphe and Mimì at all,
but rather Jacques and Francine. The story of Mimì's death in the
opera draws from two different chapters in the novel, one relating
Francine's death and the other relating Mimì's.
The published libretto includes a note from the librettists
briefly discussing their adaptation. Without mentioning the play
directly, they defend their conflation of Francine and Mimì into a
single character: "Chi può non confondere nel delicato profilo di
una sola donna quelli di Mimì e di Francine?" ("Who cannot confuse
in the delicate profile of one woman the personality both of Mimì
and of Francine?"). At the time, the novel was in the public domain,
Murger having died without heirs, but rights to the play were still
controlled by Barrière's heirs.
Performance history and reception
The world première performance of La bohème took place in Turin on 1
February 1896 at the Teatro Regio and was conducted by the young
Arturo Toscanini. The opera quickly became popular throughout Italy
and productions were soon mounted by the following companies: The
Teatro di San Carlo (14 March 1896, with Elisa Petri as Musetta and
Antonio Magini-Coletti as Marcello); The Teatro Comunale di Bologna
(4 November 1896, with Amelia Sedelmayer as Musetta and Umberto
Beduschi as Rodolfo); The Teatro Costanzi (17 November 1896, with
Maria Stuarda Savelli as Mimì, Enrico Giannini-Grifoni as Rodolfo,
and Maurizio Bensaude as Marcello); La Scala (15 March 1897, with
Angelica Pandolfini as Mimì, Camilla Pasini as Musetta, Fernando De
Lucia as Rodolfo, and Edoardo Camera as Marcello); La Fenice (26
December 1897, with Emilia Merolla as Mimì, Maria Martelli as
Musetta, Giovanni Apostolu and Franco Mannucci as Rodolfo, and
Ferruccio Corradetti as Marcello); Teatro Regio di Parma (29 January
1898, with Solomiya Krushelnytska as Mimì, Lina Cassandro as Musetta,
Pietro Ferrari as Rodolfo, and Pietro Giacomello as Marcello); Paris
Opera (13 June, 1898); and the Teatro Donizetti di Bergamo (21
August 1898, with Emilia Corsi as Mimì, Annita Barone as Musetta,
Giovanni Apostolu as Rodolfo, and Giovanni Roussel as
The first performance of La bohème outside Italy was at the
Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on 16 June 1896. The opera
was given in Alexandria, Lisbon, and Moscow in early 1897. The
United Kingdom premiere took place at the Theatre Royal in
Manchester, on 22 April 1897, in a presentation by the Carl Rosa
Opera Company supervised by Puccini. This performance was given
in English and starred Alice Esty as Mimì, Bessie McDonald as
Musetta, Robert Cunningham as Rodolfo, and William Paull as
Marcello. On 2 October 1897 the same company gave the opera's
first staging at the Royal Opera House in London and on 14 October
1897 in Los Angeles for the opera's United States premiere. The
opera reached New York City on 16 May 1898 when it was performed at Wallack's Theatre with Giuseppe Agostini
as Rodolfo. The first
production of the opera actually produced by the Royal Opera House
itself premiered on 1 July 1899 with Nellie Melba as Mimì, Zélie de
Lussan as Musetta, Fernando De Lucia as Rodolfo, and Mario Ancona as
La bohème premiered in Germany at the Kroll Opera House in Berlin
on 22 June 1897. The French premiere of the opera was presented by
the Opéra-Comique on 13 June 1898 at the Théâtre des Nations. The
production used a French translation by Paul Ferrier and starred
Julia Guiraudon as Mimì, Jeanne Tiphaine as Musetta, Adolphe
Maréchal as Rodolfo, and Lucien Fugère as Marcello. The Czech
premiere of the opera was presented by the National Theatre on 27
20th and 21st centuries
La bohème continued to gain international popularity throughout the
early 20th century and the Opéra-Comique alone had already presented
the opera one hundred times by 1903. The Belgian premiere took place
at La Monnaie on 25 October 1900 using Ferrier's French translation
with Marie Thiérry as Mimì, Léon David as Rodolfo, Eugène-Charles
Badiali as Marcello, sets by Pierre Devis, Armand Lynen, and Albert
Dubosq, and Philippe Flon conducting. The Metropolitan Opera staged
the work for the first time on 26 December 1900 with Nellie Melba as
Mimì, Annita Occhiolini-Rizzini as Musetta, Albert Saléza as
Rodolfo, Giuseppe Campanari as Marcello, and Luigi Mancinelli
The opera was first performed in Brazil at the Theatro da Paz in
Belém on 21 April 1900 with the Brazilian soprano Tilde Maragliano
as Mimì, Maria Cavallini as Musetta, Giuseppe Agostini as Rodolfo
and Alessandro Modesti as Marcello. The conductor was Giorgio
The following year La bohème was presented at the Teatro Amazonas
in Manaus, Brazil on 2 July 1901 with Elvira Miotti as Mimì, Mabel
Nelma as Musetta, Michele Sigaldi as Rodolfo, and Enrico De
Franceschi as Marcello. Other premieres soon followed:
Melbourne: 13 July 1901 (Her
Majesty's Theatre; first performance in Australia)
Monaco: 1 February 1902, Opéra de Monte-Carlo in Monte Carlo with
Nellie Melba as Mimì, Enrico Caruso as Rodolfo, Alexis Boyer as
Marcello, and Léon Jehin conducting.
Prato: 25 December 1902, Regio Teatro Metastasio with Ulderica
Persichini as Mimì, Norma Sella as Musetta, Ariodante Quarti as
Rodolfo, and Amleto Pollastri as Marcello.
Catania: 9 July 1903, Politeama Pacini with Isabella Costa Orbellini
as Mimì, Lina Gismondi as Musetta, Elvino Ventura as Rodolfo, and
Alfredo Costa as Marcello.
Austria: 25 November 1903, Vienna State Opera in Vienna with Selma
Kurz as Mimì, Marie Gutheil-Schoder as Musetta, Fritz Schrödter as
Rodolfo, Gerhard Stehmann as Marcello, and Gustav Mahler conducting.
Sweden: 19 May 1905, Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm, presented
by the Royal Swedish Opera with Maria Labia as Mimì.
The first production of La bohème at the Salzburg Festival did not
occur until as late as July 2012. However, that festival has not
shown much interest in the operas of Puccini, only ever having one
production each of Tosca and Turandot in its entire history.
Despite the opera's popularity with audiences, Puccini has been the
target of condescension by some music critics who find his music
insufficiently sophisticated or difficult. The composer Benjamin Britten wrote in 1951, "[A]fter four or five performances I never
wanted to hear Bohème again. In spite of its neatness, I became
sickened by the cheapness and emptiness of the music."
Time: Around 1830.
In the four bohemians' garret
Marcello is painting while Rodolfo gazes out of the window. They
complain of the cold. In order to keep warm, they burn the
manuscript of Rodolfo's drama. Colline, the philosopher, enters
shivering and disgruntled at not having been able to pawn some
books. Schaunard, the musician of the group, arrives with food, wine
and cigars. He explains the source of his riches: a job with an
eccentric English gentleman, who ordered him to play his violin to a
parrot until it died. The others hardly listen to his tale as they
set up the table to eat and drink. Schaunard interrupts, telling
them that they must save the food for the days ahead: tonight they
will all celebrate his good fortune by dining at Cafe Momus, and he
The friends are interrupted by Benoît, the landlord, who arrives
to collect the rent. They flatter him and ply him with wine. In his
drunkenness, he begins to boast of his amorous adventures, but when
he also reveals that he is married, they thrust him from the
room—without the rent payment—in comic moral indignation. The rent
money is divided for their evening out in the Quartier Latin.
Marcello, Schaunard and Colline go out, but Rodolfo remains alone
for a moment in order to finish an article he is writing, promising
to join his friends soon. There is a knock at the door. It is a girl
who lives in another room in the building. Her candle has blown out,
and she has no matches; she asks Rodolfo to light it. She is briefly
overcome with faintness, and Rodolfo helps her to a chair and offers
her a glass of wine. She thanks him. After a few minutes, she says
that she is better and must go. But as she turns to leave, she
realizes that she has lost her key.
Her candle goes out in the draught and Rodolfo's candle goes out
too; the pair stumble in the dark. Rodolfo, eager to spend time with
the girl, to whom he is already attracted, finds the key and pockets
it, feigning innocence. He takes her cold hand (Che gelida manina –
"What a cold little hand") and tells her of his life as a poet, then
asks her to tell him more about her life. The girl says her name is
Mimì (Sì, mi chiamano Mimì – "Yes, they call me Mimì"), and
describes her simple life as an embroiderer. Impatiently, the
waiting friends call Rodolfo. He answers and turns to see Mimì
bathed in moonlight (duet, Rodolfo and Mimì: O soave fanciulla – "Oh
lovely girl"). They realize that they have fallen in love. Rodolfo
suggests remaining at home with Mimì, but she decides to accompany
him to the Cafe Momus. As they leave, they sing of their newfound
A great crowd, including children, has gathered with street sellers
announcing their wares (chorus: Aranci, datteri! Caldi i marroni! –
"Oranges, dates! Hot chestnuts!"). The friends arrive; Rodolfo buys
Mimì a bonnet from a vendor, while Colline buys a coat and Schaunard
a horn. Parisians gossip with friends and bargain with the vendors;
the children of the streets clamor to see the wares of Parpignol,
the toy seller. The friends enter the Cafe Momus.
As the men and Mimì dine at the cafe, Musetta, formerly
Marcello's sweetheart, arrives with her rich (and elderly)
government minister admirer, Alcindoro, whom she is tormenting. It
is clear she has tired of him. To the delight of the Parisians and
the embarrassment of her patron, she sings a risqué song (Musetta's
waltz: Quando me'n vo' – "When I go along"), hoping to reclaim
Marcello's attention. The ploy works; at the same time, Mimì
recognizes that Musetta truly loves Marcello. To be rid of Alcindoro
for a bit, Musetta pretends to be suffering from a tight shoe and
sends him to the shoemaker to get her shoe mended. Alcindoro leaves,
and Musetta and Marcello fall rapturously into each other's arms.
The friends are presented with their bill. Schaunard's purse has
gone missing and no one else has enough money to pay. The sly
Musetta has the entire bill charged to Alcindoro. The sound of a
military band is heard, and the friends leave. Alcindoro returns
with the repaired shoe seeking Musetta. The waiter hands him the
bill and, dumbfounded, Alcindoro sinks into a chair.
At the toll gate at the Barrière d'Enfer (late February)
Peddlers pass through the barriers and enter the city. Mimì
appears, coughing violently. She tries to find Marcello, currently
living in a little tavern where he paints signs for the innkeeper.
She tells him of her hard life with Rodolfo, who abandoned her the
night before, and of Rodolfo's terrible jealousy (O buon Marcello,
aiuto! – "Oh, good Marcello, help me!"). Marcello tells her that
Rodolfo is asleep inside, and expresses concern about Mimì's cough.
Rodolfo wakes up and comes out looking for Marcello. Mimì hides and
overhears Rodolfo first telling Marcello that he left Mimì because
of her coquettishness, but finally confessing that his jealousy is a
sham: he fears she is slowly being consumed by a deadly illness
(most likely tuberculosis, known by the catchall name "consumption"
in the nineteenth century). Rodolfo, in his poverty, can do little
to help Mimì and hopes that his pretended unkindness will inspire
her to seek another, wealthier suitor (Marcello, finalmente –
Out of kindness towards Mimì, Marcello tries to silence him, but
she has already heard all. Her weeping and coughing reveal her
presence, and Rodolfo hurries to her. Musetta's laughter is heard
and Marcello goes to find out what has happened. Mimì tells Rodolfo
that she is leaving him, and asks that they separate amicably (Mimì:
Donde lieta uscì – "From here she happily left"); but their love for
one another is too strong for the pair to part. As a compromise,
they agree to remain together until the spring, when the world is
coming to life again and no one feels truly alone. Meanwhile,
Marcello has found Musetta, and the couple quarrel fiercely about
Musetta's flirtatiousness: an antithetical counterpoint to the other
pair's reconciliation (quartet: Mimì, Rodolfo, Musetta, Marcello:
Addio dolce svegliare alla mattina! – "Goodbye, sweet awakening in
Back in the garret (some months later)
Marcello and Rodolfo are trying to work, though they are primarily
talking about their girlfriends, who have left them and found
wealthy lovers. Rodolfo has seen Musetta in a fine carriage and
Marcello has seen Mimì dressed like a queen. The men both express
their nostalgia (duet: O Mimì, tu più non torni – "O Mimì, will you
not return?"). Schaunard and Colline arrive with a very frugal
dinner and all parody eating a plentiful banquet, dance together and
sing, before Schaunard and Colline engage in a mock duel.
Musetta suddenly appears; Mimì, who took up with a wealthy
viscount after leaving Rodolfo in the spring, has left her patron.
Musetta found her that day in the street, severely weakened by her
illness, and Mimì begged Musetta to bring her to Rodolfo. Mimì,
haggard and pale, is assisted onto a bed. Briefly, she feels as
though she is recovering. Musetta and Marcello leave to sell
Musetta's earrings in order to buy medicine, and Colline leaves to
pawn his overcoat (Vecchia zimarra – "Old coat"). Schaunard leaves
with Colline to give Mimì and Rodolfo some time together. Mimì tells
Rodolfo that her love for him is her whole life (aria/duet, Mimì and
Rodolfo: Sono andati? – "Have they gone?").
To Mimì's delight, Rodolfo presents her with the pink bonnet he
bought her, which he has kept as a souvenir of their love. They
remember past happiness and their first meeting—the candles, the
lost key. Suddenly, Mimì is overwhelmed by a coughing fit. The
others return, with a gift of a muff to warm Mimì's hands and some
medicine. Mimì gently thanks Rodolfo for the muff, which she
believes is a present from him, reassures him that she is better and
falls asleep. As Musetta prays, Mimì dies. Schaunard realizes that
Mimì has died. Rodolfo becomes aware that something is wrong. He
rushes to the bed, calling Mimì's name in anguish, and weeps
La bohème is scored for:
woodwind: 2 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes, cor anglais, 2 clarinets in
A and B flat, bass clarinet in A and B flat, 2 bassoons
brass: 4 horns in F, 3 trumpets in F, 3 trombones, bass trombone
percussion: timpani, snare drum, triangle, cymbals, bass drum,
xylophone, glockenspiel, chimes
strings: harp, violins I, II, viola, cello, double bass
The discography of La bohème is a long one with many distinguished
recordings, including the 1972 Decca recording conducted by Herbert
von Karajan with Luciano Pavarotti as Rodolfo and Mirella Freni as
Mimi (made before Pavarotti became an international superstar of
opera), and the 1973 RCA Victor conducted by Sir Georg Solti
with Montserrat Caballé as Mimì and Plácido Domingo as Rodolfo which
won the 1974 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording. The earliest
commercially released full-length recording was probably that
recorded in February 1917 and released on the Italian label La Voce
del Padrone. Carlo Sabajno conducted the La Scala Orchestra and
Chorus with Gemma Bosini and Reno Andreini as Mimì and Rodolfo. One
of the most recent is the 2008 Deutsche Grammophon release conducted
by Bertrand de Billy with Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazón as Mimì
There are several recordings with conductors closely associated
with Puccini. In the 1946 RCA Victor recording, Arturo Toscanini,
who conducted the world premiere of the opera, conducts the NBC
Symphony Orchestra with Jan Peerce as Rodolfo and Licia Albanese as
Mimì. It is the only recording of a Puccini opera by its original
conductor. Thomas Beecham, who worked closely with Puccini when
preparing a 1920 production of La bohème in London, conducted a
performance of the opera in English released by Columbia Records in
1936 with Lisa Perli as Mimì and Heddle Nash as Rodolfo. Beecham
also conducts on the 1956 RCA Victor recording with Victoria de los
Ángeles and Jussi Björling as Mimì and Rodolfo.
Although the vast majority of recordings are in the original
Italian, the opera has been recorded in several other languages.
These include: a recording in French conducted by Erasmo Ghiglia
with Renée Doria and Alain Vanzo as Mimì and Rodolfo (1960); a
recording in German with Richard Kraus conducting the Deutsche Oper
Berlin Orchestra and Chorus with Trude Eipperle and Fritz Wunderlich
as Mimì and Rodolfo (1956); and the 1998 release on the Chandos
Opera in English label with David Parry conducting the Philharmonia
Orchestra and Cynthia Haymon and Dennis O'Neill as Mimì and Rodolfo.
Enrico Caruso, who was closely associated with the role of
Rodolfo, never recorded a full version of the opera but recorded
several extracts beginning with one on cylinder in 1906. Rodolfo's
famous aria "Che gelida manina" has been recorded by nearly 500
tenors in at least seven different languages between 1900 and 1980. In 1981 the A.N.N.A. Record Company released a six LP set
with 101 different tenors singing the aria.
Stage design for act 1 of La bohème, Reginald Gray, 2010
The missing act
In 1957 Illica’s widow died and his papers were given to the Parma
Museum. Among them was the full libretto to La bohème. It was
discovered that the librettists had prepared an act which Puccini
decided not to use in his composition. It is noteworthy for
explaining Rodolfo’s jealous remarks to Marcello in act 3.
The "missing act" is located in the timeline between the Café
Momus scene and act 3 and describes an open-air party at Musetta's
dwelling. Her protector has refused to pay further rent out of
jealous feelings, and Musetta's furniture is moved into the
courtyard to be auctioned off the following morning. The four
Bohemians find in this an excuse for a party and arrange for wine
and an orchestra. Musetta gives Mimì a beautiful gown to wear and
introduces her to a Viscount. The pair dances a quadrille in the
courtyard, which moves Rodolfo to jealousy. This explains his act 3
reference to the "moscardino di Viscontino" (young fop of a
Viscount). As dawn approaches, furniture dealers gradually remove
pieces for the morning auction.
In 1959 "Musetta's Waltz" was adapted by songwriter Bobby Worth for
the pop song "Don't You Know?", a hit for Della Reese. Earlier,
it was used for another song, "One Night of Love"
In 1969 in Paris, American free-jazz pianist Dave Burrell
recorded his La Vie de Bohème with a seven-piece group of European
and American musicians. The music on the double-LP is improvised and
experimental, but the listener can still discern Puccini's themes,
as well as the narrative arc of the complete opera.
The opera was also adapted into a 1983 short story form by the
novelist V. S. Pritchett for publication by the Metropolitan Opera
Association. La Bohème: Una piccola storia sull'immortalità
dell'amore e dell'amicizia by Carollina Fabinger is an illustrated
version in Italian for young readers published by Nuages, Milan,
2009. A short parody, The One-Minute, Non-Musical La Boheme for One
or More Actors, by Meron Langsner was published by McSweeney's
Internet Tendency in 2012.
Baz Luhrmann produced the opera for Opera Australia in 1990 with
modernized supertitle translations, and a budget of only A$60,000. A
DVD was issued of the stage show. According to Luhrmann, this
version was set in 1957 (rather than the original period of 1830)
because "...[they] discovered that 1957 was a very, very accurate
match for the social and economic realities of Paris in the 1840s." In 2002, Luhrmann
restaged his version on Broadway, the production won two Tony Awards
out of six nominations; for Best Scenic Design and Best Lighting
Design as well as a special award, the Tony Honor for Excellence in
Theatre. To play the eight
performances per week on Broadway, three casts of Mimìs and Rodolfos,
and two Musettas and Marcellos, were used in rotation.
Rent, a 1996 musical by Jonathan Larson, is based on La bohème.
Here the lovers, Roger and Mimi, are faced with AIDS and progress
through the action with songs such as "Light My Candle", which have
direct reference to La bohème. Many of the character names are
retained or are similar (e.g. the character Angel is given the
surname "Schunard"), and at another point in the play, Roger's
roommate and best friend Mark makes a wry reference to "Musetta's
Waltz", which is a recurring theme throughout the first act and is
played at the end of the second act.
Robin Norton-Hale directed a new production produced by Adam
Spreadbury-Maher at the Cock Tavern Theatre, Kilburn, for
OperaUpClose in December 2009. Originally planned for a six-week
season, it was extended for five months. The production was set in
present day North London, specifically in the Kilburn area, which is
described as one "of pound shops and betting shops, casual labour
and cheap sublets. A nice verismo touch, this – it also has the
highest rate of tuberculosis infection in Greater London.”nce and cast moved
downstairs to the pub itself, with the pub's patrons serving as
extras in the Cafe Momus scene. In 2010 it transferred to the West
End's Soho Theatre for two sell-out seasons and won a Laurence
Olivier Award. The production was revived at the Soho Theatre in
2011 and at the Charing Cross Theatre in 2012.
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Giacomo Puccini - La Bohème - Anna Netrebko, Rolando Villazón
La Bohème -- A Film by Robert Dornhelm -- Anna Netrebko, Rolando
Anna Netrebko, Mimì
Rolando Villazón, Rodolfo
Nicole Cabell, Musetta
Adrian Eröd, Schaunard
Ioan Holender, Alcindoro
Vitalij Kowaljow, Colline
George Von Bergen, Marcello
Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks
Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks
Bertrand de Billy
La Boheme - Freni, Raimondi, Martino, Panerai
La Boheme. Mimi: Mirella Freni. Musetta: Adriana Martino. Rodolfo:
Gianni Raimondi. Marcello: Rolando Panerai. Schaunard: Gianni Maffeo.
Colline: Ivo Vinco. Orchestra e Coro del Teatro Alla Scala.
Conductor: H. Von Karajan. Direceted and designed by Franco
Zeffirelli. Complete Opera.
G. Puccini - "La boheme" Act 3 "Addio"
(Netrebko - Beczala - Machaidze - Cavalletti) 2012
Giacomo Puccini - "La Bohème" Salzburg
(02.08.2012). Anna Netrebko - Mimì. Piotr Beczala - Rodolfo. Nino
Machaidze - Musetta. Massimo Cavalletti - Marcello. The Vienna
Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductor - Daniele Gatti.
G. Puccini - "La boheme" Act 4
Final (Netrebko - Beczala - Machaidze) 2012
Giacomo Puccini - "La Bohème" Salzburg
(02.08.2012). Anna Netrebko - Mimì. Piotr Beczala - Rodolfo. Nino
Machaidze - Musetta. Massimo Cavalletti - Marcello. The Vienna
Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductor - Daniele Gatti.
Poster for Giacomo Puccini’s opera Tosca, 1906
Tosca - 1900
Tosca is an opera in three acts by Giacomo Puccini to an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe
Giacosa. It premiered at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome on 14 January
1900. The work, based on Victorien Sardou's 1887 French-language
dramatic play, La Tosca, is a melodramatic piece set in Rome in June
1800, with the Kingdom of Naples's control of Rome threatened by
Napoleon's invasion of Italy. It contains depictions of torture,
murder and suicide, as well as some of Puccini's best-known lyrical
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. Turning the wordy French play into a succinct Italian
opera took four years, during which the composer repeatedly argued
with his librettists and publisher. Tosca premiered at a time of
unrest in Rome, and its first performance was delayed for a day for
fear of disturbances. Despite indifferent reviews from the critics,
the opera was an immediate success with the public.
Musically, Tosca is structured as a through-composed work, with
arias, recitative, choruses and other elements musically woven into
a seamless whole. Puccini used Wagnerian leitmotifs (short musical
statements) to identify characters, objects and ideas. While critics
have frequently dismissed the opera as a facile melodrama with
confusions of plot—musicologist Joseph Kerman famously called it a
"shabby little shocker"—the power of its score and the
inventiveness of its orchestration have been widely acknowledged.
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. Many recordings of the work
have been issued, both of studio and live performances.
The French playwright Victorien Sardou wrote more than 70 plays,
almost all of them successful, and none of them performed today.
In the early 1880s Sardou began a collaboration with actress Sarah
Bernhardt, whom he provided with a series of historical melodramas.
His third Bernhardt play, La Tosca, which premiered in Paris on 24
November 1887, and in which she starred throughout Europe, was an
outstanding success, with more than 3,000 performances in France
Puccini had seen La Tosca at least twice, in Milan and Turin. On
7 May 1889 he wrote to his publisher, Giulio Ricordi, begging him to
get Sardou's permission for the work to be made into an opera: "I
see in this Tosca the opera I need, with no overblown proportions,
no elaborate spectacle, nor will it call for the usual excessive
amount of music." Ricordi sent his agent in Paris, Emanuele Muzio,
to negotiate with Sardou, who preferred that his play be adapted by
a French composer. He complained about the reception La Tosca had
received in Italy, particularly in Milan, and also warned that other
composers were interested in the piece. Nonetheless, Ricordi
reached terms with Sardou, and assigned the librettist Luigi Illica
to write a scenario for an adaptation. In 1891, however, Illica
advised Puccini against the project, most likely because he felt the
play could not be successfully adapted to a musical form. When Sardou
expressed his unease at entrusting his most successful work to a
relatively new composer whose music he did not like, Puccini took
offence. He withdrew from the agreement, which Ricordi then
assigned to Alberto Franchetti.
Illica wrote a libretto for Franchetti who, however, was never at
ease with the assignment. There are several versions of how Ricordi
got Franchetti to surrender the rights so he could recommission
Puccini, who had again become interested. By some accounts, Ricordi convinced Franchetti that the work was too violent to be
successfully staged. Franchetti family tradition holds that
Franchetti gave the work back as a grand gesture, saying, "He has
more talent than I do." American scholar Deborah Burton contends
that Franchetti gave it up simply because he saw little merit in it
and could not feel the music in the play. Franchetti surrendered the
rights in May 1895, and in August Puccini signed a contract to
resume control of the project.
According to the libretto, the action of Tosca occurs in Rome in
June 1800. Sardou, in his play, dates it more precisely; La Tosca
takes place in the afternoon, evening, and early morning of 17 and
18 June 1800.
Italy had long been divided into a number of small states, with
the Pope in Rome ruling the Papal States in central Italy. Following
the French Revolution, a French army under Napoleon invaded Italy in
1796, entering Rome almost unopposed on 11 February 1798 and
establishing a republic there. This republic was ruled by seven
consuls; in the opera this is the former office of Angelotti, whose
character may be based on the real-life consul Libero Angelucci. In
September 1799 the French, who had protected the republic, withdrew
from Rome. As they left, troops of the Kingdom of Naples occupied
In May 1800 Napoleon, by then the undisputed leader of France,
brought his troops across the Alps to Italy once again. On 14 June
his army met the Austrian forces at the Battle of Marengo (near
Alessandria). Austrian troops were initially successful; by
mid-morning they were in control of the field of battle. Their
commander, Michael von Melas, sent this news south towards Rome.
However, fresh French troops arrived in late afternoon, and Napoleon
attacked the tired Austrians. As Melas retreated in disarray with
the remains of his army, he sent a second courier south with the
revised message. The Neapolitans abandoned Rome, and the city spent
the next fourteen years under French domination.
The Te Deum scene which concludes act 1; Scarpia stands to left.
Photograph of a pre-1914 production at the old Metropolitan Opera
House, New York.
Inside the church of Sant'Andrea della Valle
Cesare Angelotti, former consul of the Roman Republic and now an
escaped political prisoner, runs into the church and hides in the
Attavanti private chapel – his sister, the Marchesa Attavanti, has
left a key to the chapel hidden at the feet of the statue of the
Madonna. The elderly Sacristan enters and begins cleaning. The
Sacristan kneels in prayer as the Angelus sounds. The painter Mario
Cavaradossi arrives to continue work on his picture of Mary
Magdalene. The Sacristan identifies a likeness between the portrait
and a blonde-haired woman who has been visiting the church recently
(unknown to him, it is Angelotti's sister the Marchesa). Cavaradossi
describes the "hidden harmony" ("Recondita armonia") in the contrast
between the blonde beauty of his painting and his dark-haired lover,
the singer Floria Tosca. The Sacristan mumbles his disapproval
Angelotti emerges and tells Cavaradossi, an old friend who has
republican sympathies, that he is being pursued by the Chief of
Police, Baron Scarpia. Cavaradossi promises to assist him after
nightfall. Tosca's voice is heard, calling to Cavaradossi.
Cavaradossi gives Angelotti his basket of food and Angelotti
hurriedly returns to his hiding place. Tosca enters and suspiciously
asks Cavaradossi what he has been doing – she thinks that he has
been talking to another woman. Cavaradossi reassures her and Tosca
tries to persuade him to take her to his villa that evening: "Non la
sospiri, la nostra casetta" ("Do you not long for our little
cottage"). She then expresses jealousy over the woman in the
painting, whom she recognises as the Marchesa Attavanti. Cavaradossi
explains the likeness; he has merely observed the Marchesa at prayer
in the church. He reassures Tosca of his fidelity and asks her what
eyes could be more beautiful than her own: "Qual'occhio al mondo"
("What eyes in the world"). After Tosca has left, Angelotti
reappears and discusses with the painter his plan to flee disguised
as a woman, using clothes left in the chapel by his sister.
Cavaradossi gives Angelotti a key to his villa, suggesting that he
hide in a disused well in the garden.
The sound of a cannon signals that Angelotti's escape has been
discovered. He and Cavaradossi hasten out of the church. The
Sacristan re-enters with choristers, celebrating the news that
Napoleon has apparently been defeated at Marengo. The celebrations
cease abruptly with the entry of Scarpia, his henchman Spoletta and
several police agents. They have heard that Angelotti has sought
refuge in the church. Scarpia orders a search, and the empty food
basket and a fan bearing the Attavanti coat of arms are found in the
chapel. Scarpia questions the Sacristan, and his suspicions are
aroused further when he learns that Cavaradossi has been in the
church; Scarpia mistrusts the painter, and believes him complicit in
Angelotti's escape. When Tosca arrives looking for her lover,
Scarpia artfully arouses her jealous instincts by implying a
relationship between the painter and the Marchesa Attavanti. He
draws Tosca's attention to the fan and suggests that someone must
have surprised the lovers in the chapel. Tosca falls for his deceit;
enraged, she rushes off to confront Cavaradossi. Scarpia orders
Spoletta and his agents to follow her, assuming she will lead them
to Cavaradossi and Angelotti. He privately gloats as he reveals his
intentions to possess Tosca and execute Cavaradossi. A procession
enters the church singing the Te Deum; exclaiming 'Tosca, you make
me forget even God!', Scarpia joins the chorus in the prayer.
Tosca reverently lays a crucifix on Scarpia's body. Photograph of a
pre-1914 production at the old Metropolitan Opera House, New York.
Scarpia's apartment in the Palazzo Farnese, that evening
Scarpia, at supper, sends a note to Tosca asking her to come to
his apartment. He has been unable to find Angelotti, but has
arrested Cavaradossi. As Cavaradossi is brought in and questioned,
the voice of Tosca, singing a celebratory cantata in another room in
the Palace, can be heard. Cavaradossi denies knowing anything about
the escape of Angelotti. Tosca arrives, just in time to see her
lover taken to an antechamber to be tortured. He is able to speak
briefly with her, telling her to say nothing. Tosca is told by
Scarpia that she can save her lover from indescribable pain if she
reveals Angelotti's hiding place. She resists, but hearing
Cavaradossi's cries of pain, eventually tells Scarpia that Angelotti
is in the well in the garden of Cavaradossi's villa.
Scarpia orders the torture of Cavaradossi to cease and the
wounded painter is brought back in. He recovers consciousness and,
learning of Tosca's betrayal, is furious with her. Sciarrone, a
police agent, enters with news of Napoleon's victory at Marengo;
Cavaradossi gloats, telling Scarpia that his rule of terror will
soon be at an end, before being dragged away by Scarpia's men.
Scarpia, left with Tosca, proposes a bargain: if she gives herself
to him, Cavaradossi will be freed. She is revolted, and repeatedly
rejects his advances. Outside she hears the drums that announce an
execution; as Scarpia awaits her decision, she prays to God for
help, asking why He has abandoned her: "Vissi d'arte" ("I lived for
art"). Scarpia remains adamant despite her pleas. When Spoletta
brings news that Angelotti has killed himself, and that everything
is in place for Cavaradossi's execution, Tosca, in despair, agrees
to submit to Scarpia in return for Cavaradossi's freedom. Scarpia
tells his deputy Spoletta to arrange a mock execution, both
recalling that it will be "as we did with Count Palmieri".
Following Spoletta's departure, Tosca imposes the further
condition that Scarpia provide a safe-conduct out of Rome for
herself and her lover. While he is signing the document, Tosca
quietly takes a knife from the supper table. As Scarpia triumphantly
embraces her, she stabs him, crying "this is Tosca's kiss!". As
Scarpia falls dead, she declares that she now forgives him. She
removes the safe-conduct from his pocket, lights candles in a
gesture of piety and places a crucifix on the body before leaving.
The Castel Sant'Angelo, (right), scene of the Tosca denouement, as
painted in the 18th century
The upper parts of the Castel Sant'Angelo, early the following
A shepherd boy sings (in Romanesco dialect) "Io de' sospiri" ("I
give you sighs") as church bells sound for matins. Cavaradossi is
led in by guards and informed that he has one hour to live. He
refuses to see a priest, but asks permission to write a letter to
Tosca. He begins to write, but is soon overwhelmed by memories: "E
lucevan le stelle" ("And the stars shone"). Tosca enters and shows
him the safe-conduct. She tells him that she has killed Scarpia and
that the imminent execution is a sham: Cavaradossi must feign death,
but afterwards they can leave Rome together, before Scarpia's body
is discovered. Cavaradossi is amazed at the courage shown by one so
gentle and tender: "O dolci mani" ("Oh sweet hands"). The pair
ecstatically plan the life they will live away from Rome. Tosca then
anxiously instructs Cavaradossi on how to play his part in the mock
execution convincingly. She tells him that he will be shot with
blanks by the firing squad and instructs him to fall down as if
dead. He agrees to act "like Tosca in the theatre".
Cavaradossi is led away, and Tosca watches with increasing
impatience as the execution is prepared. The men fire, Cavaradossi
falls, and Tosca exclaims "Ecco un artista!" ("What an actor!").
When the soldiers have all left, she hurries towards Cavaradossi,
only to find that he is dead; Scarpia has betrayed her. Heartbroken,
she clasps his lifeless body and weeps. The voices of Spoletta,
Sciarrone and soldiers are heard, indicating that Scarpia's body has
been found, and that Tosca is known to have killed him. As Spoletta,
Sciarrone and the soldiers rush in, Tosca rises, evades their
clutches, and runs to the parapet. Crying "O Scarpia, Avanti a Dio!"
("O Scarpia, we meet before God!"), she hurls herself over the edge
to her death.
Front cover of the original 1899 libretto
Adaptation and writing
Sardou's five-act play La Tosca contains a large amount of dialogue
and exposition. While the broad details of the play are present in
the opera's plot, the original work contains many more characters
and much detail not present in the opera. In the play the lovers are
portrayed as though they were French: the character Floria Tosca is
closely modelled on Bernhardt's personality, while her lover
Cavaradossi, of Roman descent, is born in Paris. Illica and Giuseppe
Giacosa, the playwright who joined the project to polish the verses,
needed not only to cut back the play drastically, but to make the
characters' motivations and actions suitable for Italian opera. Giacosa and Puccini repeatedly clashed over the condensation, with
Giacosa feeling that Puccini did not really want to complete the
The first draft libretto that Illica produced for Puccini resurfaced
in 2000 after being lost for many years. It contains considerable
differences from the final libretto, relatively minor in the first
two acts but much more appreciable in the third, where the
description of the Roman dawn that opens the third act is much
longer, and Cavaradossi's tragic aria, the eventual "E lucevan le
stelle", has different words. The 1896 libretto also offers a
different ending, in which Tosca does not die but instead goes mad.
In the final scene, she cradles her lover's head in her lap and
hallucinates that she and her Mario are on a gondola, and that she
is asking the gondolier for silence. Sardou refused to consider this
change, insisting that as in the play, Tosca must throw herself from
the parapet to her death. Puccini agreed with Sardou,
telling him that the mad scene would have the audiences anticipate
the ending and start moving towards the cloakrooms. Puccini pressed
his librettists hard, and Giacosa issued a series of melodramatic
threats to abandon the work. The two librettists were finally able
to give Puccini what they hoped was a final version of the libretto
Little work was done on the score during 1897, which Puccini
devoted mostly to performances of La bohème. The opening page of
the autograph Tosca score, containing the motif that would be
associated with Scarpia, is dated January 1898. At Puccini's
request, Giacosa irritably provided new lyrics for the act 1 love
duet. In August, Puccini removed several numbers from the opera,
according to his biographer, Mary Jane Phillips-Matz, "cut[ting]
Tosca to the bone, leaving three strong characters trapped in an
airless, violent, tightly wound melodrama that had little room for
lyricism". At the end of the year, Puccini wrote that he was
"busting his balls" on the opera.
Puccini asked clerical friends for words for the congregation to
mutter at the start of the act 1 Te Deum; when nothing they provided
satisfied him, he supplied the words himself. For the Te Deum music,
he investigated the melodies to which the hymn was set in Roman
churches, and sought to reproduce the cardinal's procession
authentically, even to the uniforms of the Swiss Guards. He adapted
the music to the exact pitch of the great bell of St. Peter's
Basilica, and was equally diligent when writing the music that opens
act 3, in which Rome awakens to the sounds of church bells. He journeyed to Rome and went to the Castel
Sant'Angelo to measure the sound of matins bells there, as they
would be heard from its ramparts. Puccini had bells for the Roman
dawn cast to order by four different foundries. This
apparently did not have its desired effect, as Illica wrote to
Ricordi on the day after the premiere, "the great fuss and the large
amount of money for the bells have constituted an additional folly,
because it passes completely unnoticed". Nevertheless, the bells
provide a source of trouble and expense to opera companies
performing Tosca to this day.
In act 2, when Tosca sings offstage the cantata that celebrates
the supposed defeat of Napoleon, Puccini was tempted to follow the
text of Sardou's play and use the music of Giovanni Paisiello,
before finally writing his own imitation of Paisello's style. It was
not until 29 September 1899 that Puccini was able to mark the final
page of the score as completed. Despite the notation, there was
additional work to be done, such as the shepherd boy's song
at the start of act 3. Puccini, who always sought to put local colour in his works, wanted that song to be in Roman dialect. The
composer asked a friend to have a "good romanesco poet" write some
words; eventually the poet and folklorist Luigi "Giggi" Zanazzo
(it) wrote the verse which, after slight modification, was placed in
In October 1899, Ricordi realized that some of the music for
Cavaradossi's act 3 aria, "O dolci mani" was borrowed from music
Puccini had cut from his early opera, Edgar and demanded changes.
Puccini defended his music as expressive of what Cavaradossi must be
feeling at that point, and offered to come to Milan to play and sing
act 3 for the publisher. Ricordi was overwhelmed by the
completed act 3 prelude, which he received in early November, and
softened his views, though he was still not completely happy with
the music for "O dolci mani". In any event time was too short
before the scheduled January 1900 premiere to make any further
Caruso as Cavaradossi. Passed over for the role at the premiere, he
sang it many times subsequently.
Reception and performance history
By December 1899, Tosca was in rehearsal at the Teatro Costanzi.
Because of the Roman setting, Ricordi arranged a Roman premiere for
the opera, even though this meant that Arturo Toscanini could
not conduct it as Puccini had hoped—Toscanini was fully engaged at
La Scala in Milan. Leopoldo Mugnone was appointed to conduct. The
accomplished (but temperamental) soprano Hariclea Darclée was
selected for the title role; Eugenio Giraldoni, whose father had
originated multiple Verdi roles, became the first Scarpia. The young
Enrico Caruso had hoped to create Cavaradossi, but was passed over
in favour of the more experienced Emilio De Marchi. The
performance was to be directed by Nino Vignuzzi, with stage designs
by Adolfo Hohenstein.
At the time of the premiere, Italy had experienced political and
social unrest for several years. The start of the Holy Year in
December 1899 attracted the religious to the city, but also brought
threats from anarchists and other anticlericals. Police received
warnings of an anarchist bombing of the theatre, and instructed
Mugnone (who had survived a theatre bombing in Barcelona), that in
an emergency he was to strike up the royal march. The unrest caused
the premiere to be postponed by one day, to 14 January.
By 1900, the premiere of a Puccini opera was a national event. Many Roman dignitaries attended, as did Queen Margherita,
though she arrived late, after the first act. The Prime Minister
of Italy, Luigi Pelloux was present, with several members of his
cabinet. A number of Puccini's operatic rivals were there,
including Franchetti, Pietro Mascagni, Francesco Cilea and
Ildebrando Pizzetti. Shortly after the curtain was raised there was
a disturbance in the back of the theatre, caused by latecomers
attempting to enter the auditorium, and a shout of "Bring down the
curtain!", at which Mugnone stopped the orchestra. A few
moments later the opera began again, and proceeded without further
The performance, while not quite the triumph that Puccini had
hoped for, was generally successful, with numerous encores. Much
of the critical and press reaction was lukewarm, often blaming Illica's libretto. In response, Illica
condemned Puccini for treating his librettists "like stagehands" and
reducing the text to a shadow of its original form. Nevertheless,
any public doubts about Tosca soon vanished; the premiere was
followed by twenty performances, all given to packed houses.
Maria Callas and Tito Gobbi, act 2, Royal Opera House, Covent
Garden, London 1964
The Milan premiere at La Scala took place under Toscanini on 17
March 1900. Darclée and Giraldoni reprised their roles; the
prominent tenor Giuseppe Borgatti replaced De Marchi as Cavaradossi.
The opera was a great success at La Scala, and played to full
houses. Puccini travelled to London for the British premiere at
the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, on 12 July, with Milka Ternina
and Fernando De Lucia as the doomed lovers and Antonio Scotti as
Scarpia. Puccini wrote that Tosca was "[a] complete triumph", and
Ricordi's London representative quickly signed a contract to take
Tosca to New York. The premiere at the Metropolitan Opera (the
"Met") was on 4 February 1901, with De Lucia's replacement by
Giuseppe Cremonini the only change from the London cast. For its
French premiere at the Opéra-Comique on 13 October 1903, the
72-year-old Sardou took charge of all the action on the stage.
Puccini was delighted with the public's reception of the work in
Paris, despite adverse comments from critics. The opera was
subsequently premiered at venues throughout Europe, the Americas,
Australia and the Far East; by the outbreak of war in 1914 it had
been performed in more than 50 cities worldwide.
Among the prominent early Toscas was Emmy Destinn, who sang the
role regularly in a long-standing partnership with the tenor Enrico
Caruso. Maria Jeritza, over many years at the Met and in Vienna,
brought her own distinctive style to the role, and was said to be
Puccini's ideal Tosca. Jeritza was the first to deliver "Vissi
d'arte" from a prone position, having fallen to the stage while
eluding the grasp of Scarpia. This was a great success, and Jeritza
sang the aria lying down thereafter. Of her successors, opera
enthusiasts tend to consider Maria Callas as the supreme interpreter
of the role, largely on the basis of her performances at the Royal
Opera House in 1964, with Tito Gobbi as Scarpia. This
production, by Franco Zeffirelli, remained in continuous use at
Covent Garden for more than 40 years until replaced in 2006 by a new
staging, which premiered with Angela Gheorghiu. Callas had first
sung Tosca at age 18 in a performance given in Greek, in Athens on
27 August 1942. Tosca was also her last on-stage operatic role, in a
special charity performance at the Royal Opera House on 7 May 1965.
Among non-traditional productions, in 1996 at La Scala Luca
Ronconi used distorted and fractured scenery to represent the twists
of fate reflected in the plot. Jonathan Miller, in a 1986
production for the 49th Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, transferred the
action to Nazi-occupied Rome in 1944, with Scarpia as head of the
fascist police. In Philipp Himmelmann's production on the Lake
Stage at the Bregenz Festival in 2007 the act 1 set, designed by
Johannes Leiacker, was dominated by a huge Orwellian "Big Brother"
eye. The iris opens and closes to reveal surreal scenes beyond the
action. This production updates the story to a modern Mafia
scenario, with special effects "worthy of a Bond film".
In 1992 a television version of the opera was filmed at the
locations prescribed by Puccini, at the times of day at which each
act takes place. Featuring Catherine Malfitano, Plácido Domingo and
Ruggero Raimondi, the performance was broadcast live throughout
Europe. Luciano Pavarotti, who sang Cavaradossi from the late
1970s, appeared in a special performance in Rome on 14 January 2000,
to celebrate the opera's centenary with Domingo as conductor.
Pavarotti's last stage performance was as Cavaradossi at the Met, on
13 March 2004.
Early Cavaradossis played the part as if the painter believed
that he was reprieved, and would survive the "mock" execution.
Beniamino Gigli, who performed the role many times in his forty-year
operatic career, was one of the first to assume that the painter
knows, or strongly suspects, that he will be shot. Gigli wrote in
his autobiography: "he is certain that these are their last moments
together on earth, and that he is about to die". Domingo, the
dominant Cavaradossi of the 1970s and 1980s, concurred, stating in a
1985 interview that he had long played the part that way. Gobbi,
who in his later years often directed the opera, commented, "Unlike
Floria, Cavaradossi knows that Scarpia never yields, though he
pretends to believe in order to delay the pain for Tosca."
The enduring popularity of Tosca has not been matched by consistent
critical enthusiasm. After the premiere, Ippolito Valetta of Nueva
antologia wrote, "[Puccini] finds in his palette all colours,
all shades; in his hands, the instrumental texture becomes
completely supple, the gradations of sonority are innumerable, the
blend unfailingly grateful to the ear." However, one critic described
act 2 as overly long and wordy; another echoed Illica and Giacosa in
stating that the rush of action did not permit enough lyricism, to
the great detriment of the music. A third called the opera "three
hours of noise".
The critics gave the work a generally kinder reception in London,
where The Times called Puccini "a master in the art of poignant
expression", and praised the "wonderful skill and sustained power"
of the music. In The Musical Times, Puccini's score was admired for
its sincerity and "strength of utterance." However, after
the 1903 Paris opening, the composer Paul Dukas thought the work
lacked cohesion and style, while Gabriel Fauré was offended by
"disconcerting vulgarities". More recently the musicologist Joseph
Kerman described Tosca as a "shabby little shocker."
Veteran critic Ernest Newman, while acknowledging the "enormously
difficult business of boiling [Sardou's] play down for operatic
purposes," writes that the subtleties of Sardou's original plot are
handled "very lamely", so that "much of what happens, and why, is
unintelligible to the spectator". Overall, however, Newman
delivers a more positive judgement: "[Puccini's] operas are to some
extent a mere bundle of tricks, but no one else has performed the
same tricks nearly as well". Opera scholar Julian Budden remarks on
Puccini's "inept handling of the political element", but still hails
the work as "a triumph of pure theatre". Music critic
Charles Osborne ascribes Tosca's immense popularity with audiences
to the taut effectiveness of its melodramatic plot, the
opportunities given to its three leading characters to shine vocally
and dramatically, and the presence of two great arias in "Vissi
d'arte" and "E lucevan le stelle". The work remains popular
today: according to Operabase, it ranks as fifth in the world with
537 performances given in the five seasons 2009/10 to 2013/14.
By the end of the 19th century the classic form of opera structure,
in which arias, duets and other set-piece vocal numbers are
interspersed with passages of recitative or dialogue, had been
largely abandoned, even in Italy. Operas were "through-composed",
with a continuous stream of music which in some cases eliminated all
identifiable set-pieces. In what critic Edward Greenfield calls the
"Grand Tune" concept, Puccini retains a limited number of
set-pieces, distinguished from their musical surroundings by their
memorable melodies. Even in the passages linking these "Grand
Tunes", Puccini maintains a strong degree of lyricism and only
rarely resorts to recitative.
Budden describes Tosca as the most Wagnerian of Puccini's scores,
in its use of musical leitmotifs. Unlike Wagner, Puccini does not
develop or modify his motifs, nor weave them into the music
symphonically, but uses them to refer to characters, objects and
ideas, and as reminders within the narrative. The most potent of
these motifs is the sequence of three very loud and strident chords
which open the opera and which represent the evil character of Scarpia—or
perhaps, Charles Osborne proposes, the violent atmosphere that
pervades the entire opera. Budden has suggested that
Scarpia's tyranny, lechery and lust form "the dynamic engine that
ignites the drama". Other motifs identify Tosca herself, the
love of Tosca and Cavaradossi, the fugitive Angelotti, the
semi-comical character of the sacristan in act 1 and the theme of
torture in act 2.
The opera begins without any prelude; the opening chords of the
Scarpia motif lead immediately to the agitated appearance of
Angelotti and the enunciation of the "fugitive" motif. The
sacristan's entry, accompanied by his sprightly buffo theme, lifts
the mood, as does the generally light-hearted colloquy with
Cavaradossi which follows after the latter's entrance. This leads to
the first of the "Grand Tunes", Cavaradossi's "Recondita armonia"
with its sustained high B flat, accompanied by the sacristan's
grumbling counter-melody. The domination, in that aria, of
themes which will be repeated in the love duet make it clear that
though the painting may incorporate the Marchesa's features, Tosca
is the ultimate inspiration of his work. Cavaradossi's dialogue
with Angelotti is interrupted by Tosca's arrival, signalled by her
motif which incorporates, in Newman's words, "the feline, caressing
cadence so characteristic of her." Though Tosca enters violently
and suspiciously, the music paints her devotion and serenity.
According to Budden, there is no contradiction: Tosca's jealousy is
largely a matter of habit, which her lover does not take too
After Tosca's "Non la sospiri" and the subsequent argument
inspired by her jealousy, the sensuous character of the love duet "Qual'occhio"
provides what opera writer Burton Fisher describes as "an almost
erotic lyricism that has been called pornophony". The brief
scene in which the sacristan returns with the choristers to
celebrate Napoleon's supposed defeat provides almost the last
carefree moments in the opera; after the entrance of Scarpia to his
menacing theme, the mood becomes sombre, then steadily darker.
As the police chief interrogates the sacristan, the "fugitive" motif
recurs three more times, each time more emphatically, signalling
Scarpia's success in his investigation. In Scarpia's exchanges with
Tosca the sound of tolling bells, interwoven with the orchestra,
creates an almost religious atmosphere, for which Puccini draws on
music from his then unpublished Mass of 1880. The final scene in the
act is a juxtaposition of the sacred and the profane, as Scarpia's lustful reverie is sung alongside the
swelling Te Deum chorus. He joins with the chorus in the final
statement "Te aeternum Patrem omnis terra veneratur" ("Everlasting
Father, all the earth worships thee"), before the act ends with a
thunderous restatement of the Scarpia motif.
Emmy Destinn in the role of Tosca, c. 1910
Woman standing in a dramatic pose, right arm raised, left arm
holding a large bouquet. She is wearing a long formal gown and a
Fisher has observed that Puccini's was a tragic muse; in the second
act of Tosca, according to Newman, he rises to his greatest height
as a master of the musical macabre. The act begins
quietly, with Scarpia musing on the forthcoming downfall of
Angelotti and Cavaradossi, while in the background a gavotte is
played in a distant quarter of the Farnese Palace. For this music
Puccini adapted a fifteen-year-old student exercise by his late
brother, Michele, stating that in this way his brother could live
again through him. In the dialogue with Spoletta, the "torture"
motif—an "ideogram of suffering", according to Budden—is heard for
the first time as a foretaste of what is to come. As Cavaradossi is brought in for interrogation, Tosca's voice is heard
with the offstage chorus singing a cantata, "[its] suave strains
contrast[ing] dramatically with the increasing tension and
ever-darkening colour of the stage action". The cantata is most
likely the Cantata a Giove, in the literature referred to as a lost
work of Puccini's from 1897.
Osborne describes the scenes that follow—Cavaradossi's
interrogation, his torture, Scarpia's sadistic tormenting of
Tosca—as Puccini's musical equivalent of grand guignol to which
Cavaradossi's brief "Vittoria! Vittoria!" on the news of
Napoleon's victory gives only partial relief. Scarpia's aria "Già, mi dicon
venal" ("Yes, they say I am venal") is closely followed by Tosca's "Vissi
d'arte". A lyrical andante based on Tosca's act 1 motif, this is
perhaps the opera's best-known aria, yet was regarded by Puccini as
a mistake; he considered eliminating it since it held up the action.
Fisher calls it "a Job-like prayer questioning God for punishing a
woman who has lived unselfishly and righteously". In
the act's finale, Newman likens the orchestral turmoil which follows
Tosca's stabbing of Scarpia to the sudden outburst after the slow
movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. After Tosca's
contemptuous "E avanti a lui tremava tutta Roma!" ("All Rome
trembled before him"), sung on a middle C♯ monotone (sometimes
spoken), the music gradually fades, ending "the most impressively
macabre scene in all opera." The final notes in the
act are those of the Scarpia motif, softly, in a minor key.
The execution of Cavaradossi at the end of act 3. Soldiers fire, as
Tosca looks away.
Photograph of a pre-1914 production by the
The third act's tranquil beginning provides a brief respite from the
drama. An introductory 16-bar theme for the horns will later be sung
by Cavaradossi and Tosca in their final duet. The orchestral prelude
which follows portrays the Roman dawn; the pastoral aura is
accentuated by the shepherd boy's song, and the sounds of sheep
bells and church bells, the authenticity of the latter validated by
Puccini's early morning visits to Rome. Themes reminiscent
of Scarpia, Tosca and Cavaradossi emerge in the music, which changes
tone as the drama resumes with Cavaradossi's entrance, to an
orchestral statement of what becomes the melody of his aria "E
lucevan le stelle".
This is a farewell to love and life, "an anguished lament and grief
built around the words 'muoio disperato' (I die in despair)".
Puccini insisted on the inclusion of these words, and later stated
that admirers of the aria had treble cause to be grateful to him:
for composing the music, for having the lyrics written, and "for
declining expert advice to throw the result in the waste-paper
basket". The lovers' final duet "Amaro sol per te", which
concludes with the act's opening horn music, did not equate with
Ricordi's idea of a transcendental love duet which would be a
fitting climax to the opera. Puccini justified his musical treatment
by citing Tosca's preoccupation with teaching Cavaradossi to feign
In the execution scene which follows, a theme emerges, the
incessant repetition of which reminded Newman of the Transformation
Music which separates the two parts of act 1 in Wagner's Parsifal. In the final bars, as Tosca evades Spoletta and leaps
to her death, the theme of "E lucevan le stelle" is played tutta
forze (as loudly as possible). This choice of ending has been
strongly criticised by analysts, mainly because of its specific
association with Cavaradossi rather than Tosca. Joseph Kerman mocked
the final music, "Tosca leaps, and the orchestra screams the first
thing that comes into its head." Budden, however, argues that it is
entirely logical to end this dark opera on its blackest theme. According to historian and former opera singer Susan Vandiver Nicassio:
"The conflict between the verbal and the musical clues gives the end
of the opera a twist of controversy that, barring some unexpected
discovery among Puccini's papers, can never truly be resolved."
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Puccini - Tosca - Kabaivanska, Domingo, Milnes - Subtítulos en
Tosca 2004 Ruggero Raimondi Daniela Dessi
Tosca Ruggero Raimondi Daniela Dessi Fabio Armiliato Teatro Real de
Madri rg Maurizio Benini
Floria Tosca - Ines Salazar
Mario Cavaradossi - Luciano Pavarotti
Il barone Scarpia - Juan (Joan) Pons
Il Sagristano - Enzo Dara
Cesare Angelotti - Felipe Bou
Spoletta - Luca Casalin
Sciarrone - Roberto Accurso
Un pastore - Michael Alfonsi
Un carceriere - Filippo Morace
Conductor Plácido Domingo - 2000(LI)
Orchestra - Teatro dell'Opera di Roma
Chorus - Teatro dell'Opera di Roma
Angela GHEORGHIU - Vissi d'arte - Tosca - Puccini
Angela Gheorghiu sings the wonderful and moving aria "Vissi d'arte"
in Puccini's opera 'Tosca'. Conducted by Antonio Pappano.
"Vissi d'arte" from "Tosca"
Angela Gheorghiu, Kennedy Center Honors Grace Bumbry, 2009
María Callas - Puccini "Vissi
María Callas "Vissi d´arte" Puccini
Tosca Act. II
París Conservatoire Orchestra
Conducted by Georges Prètre
Puccini - Tosca - E lucevan le
stelle - Pavarotti as Cavaradossi
E lucevan le stelle is the romanza of
Mario Cavaradossi in the 3rd act of Tosca, the opera composed by
Giacomo Puccini to an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe
Giacosa. It is sung by Tosca's lover, the painter Mario Cavaradossi
(tenor), while waiting for his coming execution. Written in B minor,
is one of the most famous opera arias.
Placido Domingo - Tosca - E lucevan
1992, Conductor: Zubin Mehta.
Angela Gheorghiu - TOSCA final scene
Poster for Giacomo Puccini’s production of the opera Madama
Butterfly, c. 1900.
Madama Butterfly - 1910
Madama Butterfly (Madame Butterfly) is an opera in three acts
(originally two acts) by Giacomo Puccini, with an Italian libretto
by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa. The libretto of the opera is
based in part on the short story "Madame Butterfly" (1898) by John
Luther Long—which in turn was based partially on stories told to
Long by his sister Jennie Correll and partially on the
semi-autobiographical 1887 French novel Madame Chrysanthème by
Long's short story was dramatized by David Belasco as a one-act
play, Madame Butterfly: A Tragedy of Japan (1900). After premiering
in New York, Belasco's play moved to London, where Puccini saw it in
the summer of 1900.
The original version of the opera, in two acts, had its premiere
on 17 February 1904 at La Scala in Milan. It was very poorly
received despite the presence of such notable singers as soprano
Rosina Storchio, tenor Giovanni Zenatello and baritone Giuseppe De
Luca in the lead roles. This was due in large part to the late
completion and inadequate time for rehearsals. Puccini revised the
opera, splitting the second act into two acts and making other
changes. On May 28, 1904, this version was performed in Brescia and
was a huge success.
Between 1915 and 1920, Japan's best-known opera singer Tamaki
Miura won international fame for her performances as Cio-Cio San.
Her statue, along with that of Puccini, can be found in the Glover
Garden in Nagasaki, the city where the opera is set.
Madama Butterfly is a staple of the standard operatic repertoire
for companies around the world, ranking 6th in the Operabase list of
the most-performed operas worldwide (Puccini's La Bohème and Tosca
rank 3rd and 5th resp.) .
Geraldine Farrar as Madama Butterfly, 1907
Puccini wrote five versions of the opera; the original two-act
version, which was presented at the world premiere at La Scala on
17 February 1904, was withdrawn after the disastrous premiere.
Puccini then substantially rewrote it, this time in three acts. This
second version was performed on 28 May 1904 in Brescia, where it
was a great success. It was this second version that premiered in
the United States in 1906, first in Washington, D.C., in October,
and then in New York in November, performed by Henry Savage's New
English Opera Company (so named because it performed in
In 1906, Puccini wrote a third version, which was performed
at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. In 1907, Puccini made several
changes in the orchestral and vocal scores, and this became the
fourth version, which was performed in Paris.
In 1907, Puccini made his final revisions to the opera in a fifth
version, which has become known as the "Standard Version"
and is the one which is most often performed around the world.
However, the original 1904 version is occasionally performed as
Premieres of the standard version in major opera houses throughout
the world include those in the Teatro de la Opera de Buenos Aires on
2 July 1904, under Arturo Toscanini, this being the first
performance in the world outside Italy. Its first performance in
Britain was in London on 10 July 1905 at the Royal Opera House,
Covent Garden, while the first US performance was presented in
English on October 15, 1906, in Washington, D.C., at the Columbia
Theater. The first performance in New York took place on 12 November
of the same year at the Garden Theater. The Metropolitan Opera
first performed the work on February 11, 1907 in the presence of the
composer with Geraldine Farrar as Cio-Cio San, Enrico Caruso as
Pinkerton, Louise Homer as Suzuki, Antonio Scotti as Sharpless, and
Arturo Vigna conducting. Three years later, the first Australian
performance was presented at the Theatre Royal in Sydney on 26 March
1910, starring Amy Castles.
Place: Nagasaki, Japan.
In 1904, a U.S. Naval officer named Pinkerton rents a house on a
hill in Nagasaki, Japan, for him and his soon-to-be wife,
"Butterfly". Her real name is Ciocio-san, (cio-cio, pronounced "chocho":
the Japanese word for "butterfly" is chō 蝶). She is a 15-year-old
Japanese girl whom he is marrying for convenience, since he intends
to leave her once he finds a proper American wife, and since
Japanese divorce laws are very lax. The wedding is to take place at
the house. Butterfly had been so excited to marry an American that
she had earlier secretly converted to Christianity. After the
wedding ceremony, her uninvited uncle, a bonze, who has found out
about her conversion, comes to the house, curses her and orders all
the guests to leave, which they do while renouncing her. Pinkerton
and Butterfly sing a love duet and prepare to spend their first
Three years later, Butterfly is still waiting for Pinkerton to
return, as he had left shortly after their wedding. Her maid Suzuki
keeps trying to convince her that he is not coming back, but
Butterfly will not listen to her. Goro, the marriage broker who
arranged her marriage, keeps trying to marry her off again, but she
won't listen to him either. The American Consul, Sharpless, comes to
the house with a letter which he has received from Pinkerton which
asks him to break some news to Butterfly: that Pinkerton is coming
back to Japan, but Sharpless cannot bring himself to finish it
because Butterfly becomes very excited to hear that Pinkerton is
coming back. Sharpless asks Butterfly what she would do if Pinkerton
were not to return. She then reveals that she gave birth to
Pinkerton's son after he had left and asks Sharpless to tell him.
From the hill house, Butterfly sees Pinkerton's ship arriving in
the harbour. She and Suzuki prepare for his arrival, and then they
wait. Suzuki and the child fall asleep, but Butterfly stays up all
night waiting for him to arrive.
Suzuki wakes up in the morning and Butterfly finally falls asleep.
Sharpless and Pinkerton arrive at the house, along with Pinkerton's
new American wife, Kate. They have come because Kate has agreed to
raise the child. But, as Pinkerton sees how Butterfly has decorated
the house for his return, he realizes he has made a huge mistake. He
admits that he is a coward and cannot face her, leaving Suzuki,
Sharpless and Kate to break the news to Butterfly. Agreeing to give
up her child if Pinkerton comes himself to see her, she then prays
to statues of her ancestral gods, says goodbye to her son, and
blindfolds him. She places a small American flag into his hands and
goes behind a screen, cutting her throat with her father's hara-kiri
knife. Pinkerton rushes in, but he is too late, and Butterfly dies.
Synopsis (musical numbers)
This is a synopsis of the standard version of the opera, with
its arias, duets, trios, choruses, etc. The synopsis is organized
into the 34 tracks that constitute most recordings.
1. A short orchestral prelude with a busy, fugal opening theme,
followed by a second theme of more overtly Japanese character, leads
straight into the opening scene.
2. E soffitto e pareti ("And ceiling and walls"). Pinkerton, a
U.S. Naval Officer on USS Abraham Lincoln, and Goro, a Japanese
marriage broker, are inspecting a small house which sits on a hill
and overlooks the bay. Goro has found the house for Pinkerton and
his bride, and is showing him the house, with its sliding doors and
small garden. The butler, the cook and the bride's maid, Suzuki,
enter the garden and are introduced to Pinkerton. After they leave,
Goro tells Pinkerton that everything is now ready and that his
intended bride, a girl of 15 called Cio-Cio San (nicknamed
Butterfly), will arrive soon, as will the American Consul, the
marriage Registrar and all the bride's relatives, except her uncle.
Her uncle is a priest and refuses to attend the wedding ceremony.
Sharpless, the American Consul, has climbed up the hill from the
city. He enters the garden, greets Pinkerton and Goro, and admires
the view that overlooks Nagasaki's harbor and the sea. Pinkerton
tells Sharpless that he has just purchased the little house for 999
years, with the right every month to cancel the agreement. Pinkerton
explains that, in Japan, the law is very loose.
3. Dovunque al mondo ("Throughout the world"). As the orchestra
plays the opening flourish to "The Star-Spangled Banner" (a musical
theme which will characterize Pinkerton throughout the opera),
Pinkerton tells Sharpless that, throughout the world, the Yankee
wanderer is not satisfied until he captures the flowers of every
shore and the love of every beautiful woman. "So I am marrying in
the Japanese style: for 999 years, but with the right to cancel the
marriage each month". Sharpless is critical of Pinkerton's beliefs,
but they stand and agree, "America forever". Pinkerton tells Goro to
bring Butterfly to him. When Goro leaves, Sharpless asks Pinkerton
if he is really in love.
4. Amore o grillo ("Love or fancy"). Pinkerton admits to
Sharpless that he does not know whether he is really in love or just
infatuated, but he is bewitched with Butterfly's innocence, charm
and beauty; she is like a butterfly fluttering around and then
landing with silent grace, so beautiful "that I must have her, even
though I injure her butterfly wings". Sharpless tells Pinkerton that
he heard Butterfly speak, when she visited the Consulate, and he
asks Pinkerton not to pluck off her delicate wings. However,
Pinkerton tells Sharpless that he will do "no great harm, even if
Butterfly falls in love." Sharpless takes his glass of whisky and
offers a toast to Pinkerton's family at home, to which Pinkerton
adds, "and to the day when I will have a real wedding and marry a
real American bride." Goro re-enters to tell Pinkerton and Sharpless
that Butterfly's friends are coming.
5. Ancora un passo ("One step more"). Butterfly can be heard guiding
her friends to the top of the hill, jubilantly telling them that
"Over land and sea, there floats the joyful breath of spring. I am
the happiest girl in Japan, or rather in the world." Butterfly and
her friends enter the garden. She recognizes Pinkerton and points
him out to her friends, and all bow down before him.
6. Gran ventura ("May good fortune attend you"). Butterfly greets
Pinkerton, who asks about her difficult climb up the hill. Butterfly
says that, for a happy bride, the wait is even more difficult.
Pinkerton thanks her for the compliment but cuts her off as she
continues to compliment him further. Butterfly tells Pinkerton and
Sharpless that her family is from Nagasaki and was once very
7. L'Imperial Commissario ("The Imperial Commissioner"). Goro
announces the arrival of both the Grand Commissioner and the
Registrar of marriages. Butterfly greets her relatives, who have
arrived for the wedding. Pinkerton laughs at the sight and whispers
to Sharpless, "This is a farce: all these will be my new relatives
for only a month." Sharpless tells him that, even though he
considers the marriage contract a farce, she considers it very real.
Meanwhile, Butterfly tells her relatives how much she loves
Pinkerton. One of her cousins says that Goro first offered Pinkerton
to her, but she refused. Butterfly's relatives say that he is like a
king, so rich and so handsome, and then, at a sign from Butterfly,
all her friends and relatives bow to Pinkerton and walk out to the
garden. Pinkerton takes Butterfly's hand and leads her into the
8. Vieni, amor mio! ("Come, my love!"). From her sleeve,
Butterfly brings out to show Pinkerton all of her treasures, which
include only a few handkerchiefs, a mirror, a sash, and other
trinkets. Then she shows him a long, narrow case, which she tells
him holds her only sacred treasure, but she cannot open it, because
there are too many people around. Goro whispers to Pinkerton that
the case contains a "gift" from the Mikado to Butterfly's father,
inviting him to commit seppuku. Butterfly continues to show
Pinkerton her other little treasures, including several little
statues: "They are the spirits of my ancestors."
9. Ieri son salita tutta sola ("Yesterday, I went all alone").
Butterfly tells Pinkerton that yesterday, in secret and without
telling her uncle, who is a Buddhist priest, the Bonze, she went to
the Consulate, where she abandoned her ancestral religion and
converted to Pinkerton's religion. "I am following my destiny and,
full of humility, bow to Mr. Pinkerton's God."
10. Tutti zitti ("Quiet everyone"). Everything is ready, and Goro
tells everyone to be quiet. The Commissioner conducts the brief
ceremony and witnesses Pinkerton and Butterfly sign the official
11. Madama Butterfly ("Madam Butterfly"). The wedding celebration
begins, and everyone wishes happiness to the new couple. After a
short while, Sharpless pleads with Pinkerton not to be cruel, and he
leaves with the Commissioner and the Registrar. Pinkerton, Butterfly
and their guests continue the celebration with many toasts.
12. Cio-Cio San! ("Cio-Cio San"). The toasts are interrupted by
an angry voice offstage, saying "Cio-Cio San! Cio-Cio San! You are
damned." Butterfly's uncle, the Bonze, has discovered that Butterfly
has renounced her ancestral religion, and he has arrived to deliver
his curse. He stands over Butterfly, shouting his curses at her,
when Pinkerton intervenes to stop him. The Bonze is shocked at the
American, and he orders all the guests to leave with him, saying to
Butterfly, "You have renounced us, and we renounce you." All the
guests shout their renunciation as they rush away. The night is
falling. Butterfly is weeping. Pinkerton consoles her.
13. Bimba, Bimba, non piangere ("Sweetheart, sweetheart, do not
weep"). (This begins the famous long love duet, which ends act 1.)
Pinkerton tells Butterfly that "All your relatives and all the
priests in Japan are not worth the tears from your loving, beautiful
eyes." Butterfly smiles through her tears, "You mean that? I won't
cry any more. And I do not worry about their curses, because your
words sound so sweet." They hear Suzuki offstage, saying her evening
13A. Viene la sera ("Night is falling"). (The long duet
continues.) Pinkerton tells Butterfly that the "Night is falling",
and Butterfly answers that "with it comes darkness and peace."
Pinkerton claps his hands, and the three servants enter and close up
the house. Then Suzuki helps Butterfly dress for her wedding night.
Pinkerton watches Butterfly, as she watches him, but her happiness
is tempered, as "still the angry voice curses me. Butterfly is
renounced – renounced but happy".
14. Bimba dagli occhi ("Sweetheart, with eyes..."). (The long
duet continues.) Pinkerton admires the beautiful Butterfly and tells
her, "you have not yet told me that you love me." Butterfly replies
that she does not want to say the words, "for fear of dying at
hearing them!" She tells him that now she is happy.
15. Vogliatemi bene ("Love me, please."). (The long duet
concludes.) Butterfly pleads with Pinkerton to "Love me, please."
She asks whether it is true that, in foreign lands, a man will catch
a butterfly and pin its wings to a table. Pinkerton admits that it
is true but explains, "Do you know why? So that she'll not fly
away." He embraces her and says, "I have caught you. You are mine."
She replies, "Yes, for life."
16. E Izaghi ed Izanami ("And Izanagi and Izanami"). As the curtain
opens, three years have passed. Suzuki kneels in front of a Buddha,
praying that Butterfly will stop crying. Butterfly hears and tells
her that the Japanese gods are fat and lazy, and that the American
God will answer quickly, if only He knows where they are living.
Suzuki tells Butterfly that their money has almost run out and, if
Pinkerton does not return quickly, they will suffer in a bad way.
Butterfly assures Suzuki that Pinkerton will return, because he took
care to arrange for the Consul to pay the rent and to fit the house
with locks to keep out the mosquitoes, relatives and troubles.
Suzuki tells Butterfly that foreign husbands never return to their
Japanese wives, but Butterfly replies furiously that Pinkerton had
assured her, on the very last morning they were together, "Oh,
Butterfly, my little wife, I shall return with the roses, when the
earth is full of joy, when the robin makes his nest." Suzuki begins
quietly to weep.
17. Un bel dì ("One beautiful day"). In this, the opera's most
famous aria (and one of the most popular works in the soprano
repertoire), Butterfly says that, "one beautiful day", they will see
a puff of smoke on the far horizon. Then a ship will appear and
enter the harbor. She will not go down to meet him but will wait on
the hill for him to come. After a long time, she will see in the far
distance a man beginning the walk out of the city and up the hill.
When he arrives, he will call "Butterfly" from a distance, but she
will not answer, partly for fun and partly not to die from the
excitement of the first meeting. Then he will speak the names he
used to call her: "Little one. Dear wife. Orange blossom." Butterfly
promises Suzuki that this will happen. Suzuki departs, as Sharpless
and Goro arrive in the garden.
18. C'e. Entrate. ("She is there. Go in."). Sharpless greets her,
"Excuse me, Madam Butterfly." Without looking to see who is
speaking, Butterfly corrects him, "Madam Pinkerton, please." As she
turns and sees that it is Sharpless who has spoken, she exclaims in
happiness, "My very dear Consul. Welcome to this American home."
Sharpless draws a letter from his pocket and tells her, "Benjamin
Franklin Pinkerton has written to me." Sharpless tells her that
Pinkerton is perfectly well, and she says, "I am the happiest woman
in Japan." Butterfly asks him, "When do the robins make their nests
in America?" The question confuses Sharpless, so Butterfly explains
that Pinkerton promised to return to her "when the robin builds his
nest again." She says that, in Japan, the robin has already built
his nest three times, and she asks if "over there he nests less
frequently." Sharpless, mortified, tells her that he does not know
because he has not studied ornithology. At this, Butterfly hears
Goro laugh, and she whispers to Sharpless that Goro is a bad man.
She tells him that, after Pinkerton left, Goro came to her many
times "with presents to palm off this or that husband on me." She
says that Goro now wants her to agree to marry the wealthy man
Yamadori, who then is arriving with his entourage to a musical
accompaniment that quotes the same Japanese folk tune (Miyasan) that
Gilbert and Sullivan set as "Mi-ya sama" in The Mikado.
19. Yamadori, ancor le pene ("Yamadori, are you not yet…").
Butterfly sees Yamadori and asks him if he is not going to give up
pursuing her, because "You have already had many different wives."
Yamadori admits that he married all of them, but says that he
divorced them too. In the meantime, Sharpless gives up trying to
read Pinkerton's letter to Butterfly, and he puts the letter back in
his pocket. Goro tells Sharpless that Butterfly thinks that she is
still married. Butterfly hears this and says, "I dont think I am; I
am." When Goro tries to tell her about the Japanese law of marriage,
Butterfly interrupts and tells him that the Japanese law is not the
law of her country, the United States. She tells Goro that she
understands how easy divorce is under Japanese law, "but in America,
you cannot do that." She turns sharply and asks Sharpless, "Am I
correct?" Sharpless is embarrassed and must admit that she is
correct. Butterfly turns triumphantly to Suzuki and asks that she
serve tea. Yamadori, Sharpless and Goro quietly discuss Butterfly's
blindness. Goro whispers that Pinkerton's ship is expected to arrive
soon, and Sharpless explains that Pinkerton is too embarrassed to
meet Butterfly and has asked Sharpless to handle it. Yamadori,
offended, departs with his grand entourage and Goro. Sharpless
remains, sits next to Butterfly, and takes the letter out of his
pocket once more.
20. Ora a noi. ("Now for us."). Sharpless begins to read
Pinkerton's letter to Butterfly: "My friend, will you find that
lovely flower of a girl…" Butterfly cannot control her happiness, as
he continues, "since that happy times, three years have passed, and
Butterfly perhaps does not remember me anymore." Butterfly looks at
Suzuki and says, "I don't remember him? Suzuki, you tell him!"
Sharpless continues, "If she still loves me, if she awaits me, I
place myself in your hands so that you may carefully and
considerately prepare her …" Butterfly exclaims, "He is coming!
When? Soon! Soon!" Sharpless cannot bear to continue. He puts the
letter away, muttering to himself, "that devil Pinkerton!" Sharpless
asks her gently, "Butterfly, what would you do if he never
returned?" Butterfly is shocked.
21. Due cose potrei far ("Two things I could do"). Butterfly
cries that, if Pinkerton never returned, she would go back to
entertaining people with her songs, or, better, die. Sharpless
pleads with her to accept the rich offer from Yamadori. Butterfly is
upset with Sharpless and instructs Suzuki to show him out. As he
begins to leave, Butterfly stops him, apologizes for her anger, and
explains that his questions have hurt her "so very, very much!" Then
she goes into another room and returns, bringing with her the
blonde-haired two-year-old boy who is her constant reminder of her
22. Ah! M'ha scordata? ("Ah! He has forgotten me?"). Butterfly
shows Sharpless her child, and Sharpless asks if Pinkerton knows.
Butterfly replies, "No. The child was born when he was away in his
big country." She asks Sharpless to write and tell him that his son
waits for him. "And then we shall see if he does not hurry over land
and sea!" Butterfly kneels in front of her son and asks him, "Do you
know that that gentleman had dared to think that your mother would
take you in her arms and walk to town, through the wind and rain, to
earn your bread and clothes. And she would stretch out her arms to
the pitying crowd, crying ‘Listen! Listen to my sad song, For an
unhappy mother, your charity. Take pity! And Butterfly – oh,
horrible destiny – will dance for you! And as she used to do, the
Geisha will sing for you. And her joyful, happy song will end in a
sob!" She kneels in front of Sharpless and says that she will never
do that, "that trade which leads to dishonor. Death! Death! Never
more to dance! Rather would I cut short my life! Ah! Death!"
23. Io scendo al piano. ("I will go now.") Sharpless finally
says, "I will go now." Butterfly gives him her hand and this her
child's. Sharpless asks the child his name, and Butterfly answers
for him, "Today my name is Sorrow. But write and tell Daddy that,
the day he returns, my name will be Joy." Sharpless promises to tell
Pinkerton. Offstage, Suzuki can be heard shouting, "Snake. Damned
toad!" Suzuki enters, pulling Goro with her, and she tells
Butterfly, "He buzzes around, the snake. Every day he tells the four
winds that no one knows who is the child's father!" Goro explains
that, in America, when a child is born with a curse, he will always
be rejected by everyone. In a rage, Butterfly runs to the shrine,
seizes the dagger and threatens to stab him, "You are lying! You are
lying! Say that again, and I will kill you!" Goro flees. Suzuki
takes the child to the other room. Butterfly replaces the dagger,
goes to her son and says, "You will see, my darling, my Sorrow. You
will see, your savior will take us far, far away to his land."
24. Il cannone del porto! ("The cannon at the harbor!", often
known as The Flower Duet). Just then a cannon shot is heard. Suzuki
and Butterfly watch from the hill as the ship enters the harbor and
drops anchor. Then Butterfly sees that the ship is the Abraham
Lincoln, and she tells Suzuki, "They were all lying! All of them! I
alone knew. Only I, who love him." She continues, "My love, my
faith, triumphs completely! He has returned, and he loves me!" She
tells Suzuki to prepare a fragrant bath and asks how long she will
have to wait for him. "An hour? Two hours, perhaps? The house must
be filled with flowers. Everywhere. As the night is full of stars!"
Butterfly tells Suzuki to gather all the flowers.
25. Tutti i fior? ("All the flowers?"). Suzuki asks, "All the
flowers?" Butterfly says yes, all the flowers from all the bushes
and plants and trees. "I want the whole fragrance of Spring in
here." They continue to gather flowers and place them everywhere.
26. Or vienmi ad adornar ("Now come to adorn me"). Finally,
Butterfly sits at her dressing table and tells Suzuki, "Now, come
and adorn me. No, first bring me the child." She puts a touch of
rouge on her own and on her child's cheeks and then, as Suzuki does
her hair, asks her, "What will they say? My uncle, the priest? All
so happy at my misery! And Yamadori, with his pursuit? Ridiculed,
disgraced, made foolish, the hateful things!" Butterfly dons the
same dress that she wore as a bride, while Suzuki dresses her child.
Butterfly tells Suzuki that she wants Pinkerton to see her dressed
as she was on the first day "and a red poppy in my hair."
27. Coro a bocca chiusa ("Humming Chorus"). As the off-stage
chorus hums a wordless, melancholy tune, Butterfly, her child and
Suzuki begin the long wait for Pinkerton to come. Night falls.
Suzuki and the baby are soon asleep, but Butterfly keeps her vigil.
(There is no intermission between acts 2 and 3 – the action
continues without interruption as the "Humming Chorus" ends and
morning light appears.)
28. Oh eh! Oh eh! ("Heave-ho! Heave-ho!"). Suzuki and the baby are
asleep, but Butterfly remains standing and waiting. Distant voices
are heard from the bay. Sailors are singing, "Heave-ho! Heave-ho!"
The sun rises and fills Butterfly's house with light.
29. Già il sole! ("The Sun's come up!"). Suzuki awakes and is
very sad. Butterfly tells her that "He will come." Then she carries
her sleeping child into the other room and tells him to sleep, while
she too falls asleep. Suzuki waits in the front room and hears a
knock at the door. Pinkerton and Sharpless have arrived, but
Pinkerton tells Suzuki not to wake Butterfly and asks how Butterfly
knew that he had arrived. Suzuki tells him that, for the last three
years, Butterfly has studied every ship that entered the port.
Sharpless tells Pinkerton, "Did I not tell you so?" Suzuki sees a
strange woman in the garden, learns from Sharpless that she is
Pinkerton's American wife and collapses to her knees in shock.
30. Io so che sue dolore ("I know that her pain"). While
Pinkerton looks at the flowers, the picture of himself and the room
that has remained unchanged for three years, Sharpless tells Suzuki
that they can do nothing for Butterfly but that they must help her
child. Sharpless tells her that Pinkerton's new wife, Kate, wants to
care for the child. Suzuki goes into the garden to meet Pinkerton's
new wife, while Sharpless reminds Pinkerton, "I told you, didn't I?
Do you remember? When she gave you her hand: 'Take care', I said,
'she believes in you'. She has been waiting for you." Pinkerton
admits his wrong and leaves Sharpless to tell Butterfly the shameful
31. Addio, fiorito asil ("Farewell, flowery refuge"). Pinkerton
says "Farewell, flowery refuge of happiness and of love, her gentle
face will always haunt me, torturing me endlessly." He admits that
he is a coward and cannot face her, and quickly leaves as Suzuki and
Kate enter from the garden. Kate is telling Suzuki to assure
Butterfly that Kate will look after her child like her own son.
32. Suzuki! Suzuki! ("Suzuki! Suzuki!"). From offstage, Butterfly
calls for Suzuki and then enters the room. As she enters, Kate
retreats to the garden, so that she will not be seen. She asks
Suzuki why she is crying, and then she sees Sharpless and the woman
in the garden. She tells Suzuki, "Suzuki, you are so kind. Do not
cry. You love me so much. Tell me softly, just 'yes' or 'no' … Is he
alive?" When Suzuki answers, "yes", Butterfly understands that
Pinkerton is not coming for her and that Kate is his new wife.
Butterfly realizes that she must give up her son, and Kate asks her
forgiveness. Finally, Butterfly tells Kate, "I will give my child to
her only if he comes himself. In half an hour, come up the hill
again." Suzuki escorts Kate and Sharpless out, and Butterfly falls
33. Come una mosca ("Like a little fly"). Butterfly stands, sees
Suzuki and tells her to close up the house, because it is too light
and spring-like. Then she orders her to go to the other room where
the child is playing. Butterfly then kneels before the statue of
Buddha and prays to her ancestral gods. She rises, takes down her
father's knife, kisses the blade, and reads the inscription.
34. Con onor muore ("To die with honor"). Butterfly reads the
inscription on her father's knife: "Who cannot live with honor must
die with honor." Butterfly's child enters, but Suzuki does not.
Butterfly tells her child not to feel sorrow for his mother's
desertion but to keep a faint memory of his mother's face. She bids
him farewell, seats him on the floor and blindfolds him gently. She
gives him a miniature American flag to wave in greeting to his
father, which he does, blindfolded, throughout the following action.
Butterfly takes the knife and walks behind the screen. The knife
clatters to the floor as Butterfly staggers from behind the screen
with a scarf around her neck. She kisses her child and collapses.
From outside, Pinkerton cries, "Butterfly!" and rushes in – but it
is too late: Butterfly is dead.
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Madame Butterfly - Puccini
Madama Butterfly - Puccini - Arena di Verona 2004
María Callas | Un bel dì vedremo - Madame Butterfly
Maria Callas Death of Madama Butterfly
Describing all her emotions and grief. Recorded in
1957. Conducting Herbert Von Karajan. Tenor -
Maria Callas, "O mio babbino caro" (Puccini)
Georges Prêtre, Orchestre National de France, 1965
O mio babbino caro
Mi piace è bello, bello
Vo' andare in Porta Rossa
a comperar l'anello
Sì, sì, ci voglio andare
e se l'amassi indarno,
andrei sul Ponte Vecchio,
ma per buttarmi in Arno
Mi struggo e mi tormento
O Dio, vorrei morir!
Babbo, pietà, pietà!
Babbo, pietà di me!
Giacomo Puccini - Madama Butterfly
Madama Butterfly, Act II, Part 1: Un bel di vedremo
(Butterfly)" by Angela Gheorghiu, Orchestra dell'
Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Roma & Antonio
Montserrat Caballé - O mio babbino caro
Montserrat Caballé in concert singing the famous
aria from Puccini's Gianni Schicchi. Munich, 1990
Anna Netrebko - Un Bel Di Vedremo (Berlin, 2011)
Anna Netrebko, Jonas Kaufmann, Erwin Schrott
Conductor: Marco Armiliato
Anna Netrebko - O mio babbino caro
The Berlin Concert - Live from the Waldbuhne (2006)
Performers: Anna Netrebko, Plácido Domingo, Rolando
Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin
Conductor: Marco Armiliato
Kiri te Kanawa - "Un bel di vedremo" - Madama
Kiri te Kanawa - soprano
Sir John Pritchard - conductor
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Kiri te Kanawa - O mio babbino caro - Puccini
Kiri te Kanawa sings O mio babbino caro from Gianni
Schicchi composed by Giacomo Puccini.
London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir
Katherine Jenkins - O mio babbino caro
Katherine Jenkins in Concert - Live at Llangollen
With National Symphony Orchestra, Conductor: Anthony
Angela GHEORGHIU - Un bel di vedremo - M Butterfly -
Angela Gheorghiu sings the aria "Un bel dì vedremo",
from Puccini's opera 'Madama Butterfly'
(Concert from the Lincoln Center, December 31th,
Sarah Brightman - O Mio Babbino Caro. Puccini - live