Puccini’s Tosca has been called a “shabby little shocker” but ever since it was premiered in 1900, operagoers can’t get enough of it. Fuelled by revenge, lust, murder, and suicide – the opera continues to grip its audience.

Rome, June 1800 and the city is in ferment. The malevolent Baron Scarpia (Brett Polegato) wants to hunt down Angelotti, his political rival, but he is also in pursuit of the opera singer, Tosca, for entirely other reasons, but no less malign.

The key to both prizes is the artist Cavaradossi . . .

With Francis O’Connor’s “epic” sets (The Times) and heart stopping arias delivered with lashings of love – and jealously – by Izabela Matula (Tosca) and Otar Jorjikia (Cavaradossi), this is an unmissable experience.

An opera in three acts

Sung in Italian with English surtitles

Music: Giacomo Puccini

Libretto: Luigi Illica, Giuseppe Giacosa

First performance: 14 January 1900, Teatro Costanzi, Rome

UK première: 12 July 1900, Covent Garden

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Cast & Creatives

TOSCA, a celebrated singer ∙ IZABELA MATULA
ANGELOTTI, former Consul of the Roman Republic ∙  ALAN EWING


Act 1 The church of Sant’Andrea della Valle

Angelotti, a political captive, has escaped from the prison at Castel Sant’Angelo. He plans to hide in the Attavanti chapel and his sister, the Marchesa Attavanti, has left the key at the foot of the Madonna and some clothes as a disguise. The Sacristan arrives and sees that the painter Cavaradossi is not at work and his food is untouched. The Angelus sounds as Cavaradossi arrives. He admits that the portrait he is painting of Mary Magdalene is inspired both by his lover, the singer Floria Tosca, and the Marchesa Attavanti. Angelotti appears from the chapel. Cavaradossi is of the same political persuasion and promises to help him when it gets dark. He gives away his food. Tosca thinks Cavaradossi has been talking to a secret lover and begs him to take her to his villa. She looks at the portrait and is incensed that it bears a likeness to the Marchesa Attavanti. There is a cannon shot announcing Angelotti’s escape has been discovered. Cavaradossi suggests he hide in a disused well in the garden of his villa. The Sacristan returns with the news – later to be proved false – that the enemy has been defeated at Marengo. To celebrate the victory a Te Deum will be sung and, at the Palazzo Farnese, Floria Tosca will perform. Scarpia, the brutal Chief of Police, and his agent Spoletta, have tracked Angelotti to the church. They find the food basket and a fan with the Attavanti coat of arms. Scarpia suspects that Cavaradossi has assisted Angelotti to escape. Tosca returns and Scarpia inflames her jealousy by showing her the fan – suggesting that Cavaradossi is having an affair with Marchesa Attavanti. When Tosca leaves, Scarpia sends Spoletta after her, assuming she will lead him to Cavaradossi and Angelotti. To the accompaniment of the glorious Te Deum, Scarpia anticipates the execution of Cavaradossi and his possession of Tosca.

Act 2 The Palazzo Farnese

Scarpia sends Tosca a note demanding she visit him. Spoletta returns. He was unable to find Angelotti but has arrested Cavaradossi. Scarpia questions Cavaradossi but extracts no information and he is taken off to be tortured. Tosca cannot bear his cries of pain and tells Scarpia where Angelotti is hiding. Scarpia stops the torture and Cavaradossi is brought in. Tosca assures him that she has given nothing away. Scarpia orders Spoletta to go to the well in the garden, and Cavaradossi curses Tosca for the betrayal. Sciarrone, a police officer, rushes in with the news that it is the enemy who triumphed at Marengo. Cavaradossi exults and is dragged away. Tosca is left alone with Scarpia. She pleads for mercy and finally promises to give herself to Scarpia in exchange for Cavaradossi’s freedom. Scarpia seems to instruct Spoletta to arrange a mock execution, after which the lovers will be free. He writes a safe conduct pass for them. Tosca finds a knife and stabs him.

Act 3 The Castel Sant’Angelo

It is just before dawn; church bells are ringing and a shepherd boy is passing with his flock. Cavaradossi offers his jailer his ring as a bribe so that he can write a final farewell to Tosca. He is overwhelmed by memories of an evening spent with her. Tosca arrives with the safe conduct pass and tells him that she has killed Scarpia. She explains the plan: the firing squad will use blanks, he must fall to the ground as if dead and remain there until she tells him that everyone has departed. The firing squad and Spoletta arrive. Cavaradossi refuses to be blindfolded. The soldiers take aim – Cavaradossi falls. Tosca rushes from her hiding place but the execution was real. Her lover is dead. Scarpia’s murder has been discovered. Before Tosca can be arrested she leaps to her death.

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