Program booklet »Tosca«

Page 1

GIACOMO PUCCINI

TOSCA


CONTENTS

P.

4

SYNOPSIS P.

6

CHRONOLOGY FOR TOSCA P.

10

PUCCINI AND VERISMO ARNOLD JACOBSHAGEN P.

16

LA TOSCA BETWEEN NAPOLEON AND PUCCINI HERBERT ROSENDORFER

P.

24

MARGARETE WALLMANN SILVIA KARGL P.

30

TOO MUCH AND TOO LITTLE DRAMA OLIVER LÁNG P.

36

THE SOUND OF THE UNDEAD SCARPIA JENDRIK SPRINGER P.

44

IMPRINT


GIACOMO PUCCINI

TOSCA

MELODRAMMA in three acts Libretto GIUSEPPE GIACOSA & LUIGI ILLICA after Victorien Sardou’s La Tosca

ORCHESTRA

STAGE MUSIC

3 flutes (2nd and 3rd double as piccolo) / 2 oboes / cor anglais 2 clarinets / bass clarinet / 2 bassoons contrabassoon / 4 horns / 3 trumpets 3 trombones / bass trombone percussion / bells / harp / celeste organ / violin I / violin II viola / cello / double bass flute / 4 horns / 3 trombones viola / harp / bells / percussion

AUTOGRAPH Ricordi Archive, Milan WORLD PREMIÈRE 14 JANUARY 1900 Rome, Teatro Costanzi FIRST PERFORMANCE AT THE VIENNA COURT OPERA 26 JANUARY 1910 LENGTH

2 H 45 MIN

(INCL. 2 INTERMISSIONS)




TOSCA

SYNOPSIS ACT 1 Rome in 1800. Angelotti, consul of the former Roman Republic, has escaped the Castel Sant’Angelo where he was imprisoned. In the church of Sant’An­ drea della Valle, he meets the painter Mario Cavaradossi, a sympathizer for the republic, who promises him help. In addition, his sister the Marchesa At­ tavanti, has deposited womenʼs clothes for him in their family chapel for a dis­ guise. Floria Tosca, a famous singer and jealous lover of Cavaradossi, arrives to meet the painter for a night of love in her villa. She discovers that the painting on which Cavaradossi is working, bears a resemblance to Attavanti. Only after the painter has been able to appease her jealousy and she has left the church can Cavaradossi and Angelotti plan the former consul’s escape: he should hide at Cavaradossi’s estate. A cannon shot reveals that his escape from Castel Sant’Angelo has been discovered, and Cavaradossi accompanies Angelotti to the hiding place. In the church, the supposed victory over Napoleon at Marengo (and with it a setback for the republican aspirations) is greatly celebrated. The brutal police chief Baron Scarpia, who hopes to dis­ cover evidence of Angelotti’s escape in the church, interrupts the celebration. By means of a fan belonging to the Marchesa Attavanti, he manages to stir up jealousy in the returning Tosca, who then rushes after Cavaradossi to con­ front him with his infidelity. Scarpia’s henchmen follow her. In a diabolical Previous pages: SCENE

monologue, Scarpia ponders his desire and lust to own Tosca for himself and to see Cavaradossi dead.

ACT 2 The victory over Napoleon is also cele­ brated in the Palazzo Farnese with a performance including Tosca. Mean­ while, Scarpia has Cavaradossi tortured to find out Angelotti’s hiding place. When Tosca hears his screams of pain, she reveals the secret in order to protect her lover. The news then arrives that Napoleon has triumphed at Marengo. The end of tyranny is at hand. Before that, however, Cavaradossi is to be exe­ cuted. In order to save him, Scarpia demands Tosca’s sexual submission to him. She agrees, receiving the promise of a mock execution and safe travel per­ mits – she then murders Scarpia.

ACT 3 On the roof of Castel Sant’Angelo where his execution is to take place, Ca­ varadossi loses himself in memories of Tosca. She appears and reports on his rescue, and the impending fake shoot­ ing. However, Scarpia has betrayed her and Cavaradossi is indeed shot by the soldiers. Life has become meaningless for Tosca. When Scarpia’s henchmen approach, she throws herself off of Cas­ tel Sant’Angelo.

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WOLFGANG MARGGRAF

BELIEF IN THE REALITY OF FREEDOM GIVES THE ENDING OF TOSCA A UTOPIAN MOMENT THAT TAKES US BEYOND THE ACTUAL DEFEAT OF THE HEROES INTO THE FUTURE.


CHRONOLOGY FOR TOSCA 1800

14 June: French troops led by Napoleon Bonaparte are victorious in the battle against the united Austrian armies under General Melas at Marengo in northern Italy. This hard-fought battle in which the Habs­ burg army initially had the advantage is the historic starting point for the events leading to the flight and death of the former Roman Consul Cesare Angelotti that took place three days later. Eighty-seven years later, this provided the basis for the plot of Victorien Sardou’s five-act drama La Tosca.

1858

22 December: Giacomo Puccini is born in Lucca.

1887

2 4 November: World première of Victorien Sardou’s (1831-1908) five-act drama La Tosca at the Paris Théâtre de la Porte Saint-Martin, with Sara Bernhardt (1845-1923) in the title role.

1889

fter attending a performance of La Tosca at the Milan Teatro Filodram­ A matico, in a letter dated 7 May Puccini asks his publisher Giulio Ricordi to “conduct all necessary negotiations to obtain the rights from Sardou.”

1895

nly after the successful world première of Manon Lescaut on 1 Febru­ O ary 1893 in Turin and shortly before completing his score for La bohème does Puccini turn his attention again to his Tosca project, most probably prompted by a disappointing performance of the play in Florence and by Illica’s work on a Tosca libretto for the composer Alberto Franchetti (1860-1942).

1896

1 February: The world première of La bohème takes place at the Teatro Regio in Turin under the baton of Arturo Toscanini, then 29 years old. n 13 January Puccini pays a visit to Sardou and learns to his amazement O that Sardou’s intention is for Tosca to die at the end of his opera until then, Puccini had envisaged that his lead character would survive.

1899

On 10 October in a polite but unmistakably clear letter Giulio Ricordi entreats his “dearest” Puccini to rethink the “completely misguided idea and realization” of the third act of Tosca. The following day, Puccini rejects this idea just as politely and firmly.

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CHRONOLOGY FOR TOSCA

1900

n 14 January, one day after the date initially planned, the world pre­ O mière of Puccini’s Tosca takes place at the Teatro Constanzi in Rome. Musical direction: Leopoldo Mugnone. Performers: Hariclea Darclée (Tosca), Emilio de Marchi (Cavaradossi), Eugenio Giraldoni (Scarpia), Ettore Borelli (Mesner), Ruggero Galli (Angelotti) et al. In the audience: Queen Margherita, Prime Minister Pelloux, Minister of Culture Bac­ celli, a wide variety of personages from politics and art, the composers Mascagni, Cilèa, Franchetti, Sgambati, Marchetti, and Costa. Seven curtain calls at the end of the performance, only three of them for Puc­ ci­ni. Excited discussion in the audience, critics generally negative. Not an unqualified success. 17 March: First performance of Tosca at La Scala in Milan with H. Dar­ clée as Tosca, E. Giraldoni as Scarpia. Giuseppe Borgatti sings the role of Cavaradossi, the conductor is Arturo Toscanini.

1904

First version of Madama Butterfly is premièred at La Scala.

1907

First performance of Tosca in Vienna (Volksoper, on 20 February)

1910

6 January: Première of the German-language version at the Vienna Court Opera. 10 December: World première of La fanciulla del West at the Metro­ politan Opera in New York.

1917

World première of La rondine in Monte Carlo.

1918

World première of Il trittico in New York on 14 December.

1924

29 November: Giacomo Puccini dies in Brussels.

1926

On 25 April Toscanini conducts the world première of Turandot at La Scala in Milan.

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Following pages: KS PIOTR BECZAŁA as CAVARADOSSI SONYA YONCHEVA as TOSCA




ARNOLD JACOBSHAGEN

PUCCINI AND VERISMO Puccini’s operas are strongly committed to a “realistic” aesthetic, putting them in the mainstream of Italian opera at the end of the 19th and start of the 20th century, which is traditionally associ­ ated with the category of verismo. The exact definition of the term is, how­ever, just as disputed in academic circles as the question of Puccini’s role in this connection. Usually, his relationship with verismo is seen as ambivalent or remote, and quite a few authors have taken a great deal of trouble to establish a clear distinction between Puccini and the verismo operas of some of his Ita­ lian contemporaries. It is easy to justify such a demarca­ tion, based on the musical production system of the times, as verismo was the central brand of the Sonzogno publish­ ing house, which had the works of Puc­ cini’s less successful colleagues Pietro Mascagni, Ruggero Leoncavallo, Um­ berto Giordano and Francesco Cilèa in its catalogue. Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana (Rome 1890) is generally identi­ fied as marking the birth of verismo in opera, and other Sonzogno composers soon felt committed to this. The com­ mercially far more successful Ricordi took an entirely different position. In­ stead of orienting its marketing concept on a specific style, it used its chief draw, Puccini, to focus on a single individual. The artistic and commercial com­ petition between Puccini (Ricordi) and “the verismo composers” (Sonzogno) almost inevitably involved an aesthe­

tic distance which can also be plausi­ bly justified in personal terms. Puccini could neither get comfortable with the woodcut dramatics of the verismo oneact opera modelled on Cavalleria rusticana, nor was he prepared to accept the literary texts of Sicilian verismo authors like Giovanni Verga (1840-1922) and Luigi Capuana (1839-1915). The chronicle of the failure to set Verga’s novel La lupa (The she-wolf ) – an ultimately discarded opera project which Puccini actually made a study trip to Sicily in 1894 to explore the local milieu in preparation for – is a remark­ able example of this. Puccini explained this at length in a letter to Giulio Ricor­ di on 13 July 1894. After returning from Sicily and talking to Verga, I must admit that instead of becoming enthusiastic about La lupa, I was struck by a thousand doubts. (...) The reasons are the very large role of dialogue in the text and the unpleasant characters, the absence of any good, likeable figure. This letter reads like an artistic creed of the composer, whose dislike of Verga’s rustic realism is unmissable. The “large role of dialogue in the text and the un­ pleasant characters, the absence of any good likeable figure” were criteria for rejection which Puccini saw as preclud­ ing any compromise. Before the arrival of verismo, Ital­ ian opera had been in a crisis, domi­ nated for a long time by the works of a single composer, Giuseppe Verdi, who

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PUCCINI AND VERISMO

had produced just two new operas in the past two decades – Aïda (1871) and Otello (1887). Besides Verdi, there had recently been only two representatives of the scapigliatura movement Amil­ care Ponchielli with La Gioconda (1876) and Arrigo Boïto with the revision of Mefistofele and Antonio Carlos Gomes with Il Guarany (1870) who had attrac­ ted serious attention, although without emerging from Verdi’s shadow. The crisis resulted in this phase – as never before in 19th century Italian op­ era history – in broad and far-reaching receptiveness not only to the drama­ turgy but also the musical language of international (and particularly French) works. This openness accelerated the shift in Italia opera production leading to verismo. Focusing on this breach of convention provides plausible justifica­ tion of broad treatment of the category of verismo as a label for the epoch, as e.g. Andreas Giger has argued. In this sense, works like Verdi’s Don Carlo and Otello, Boïto’s Mefistofele and Ponchiel­ li’s La Gioconda would be regarded as forerunners of verismo. A key element in this, for example in La Gioconda, is the realism of the indi­ vidual locations in Venice, which can be exactly placed, even if they seem histor­ ically displaced in the context of the ac­ tion (the piece is set in the 17th century). There are comparable instances in Puc­ cini, particularly in Tosca, whose three acts are known to be set in “authentic” historic buildings of the city of Rome (the church of Sant’Andrea della Valle, Palazzo Farnese, Castel Sant’Angelo). Puccini put great ethnographic effort in setting Roman local colour, for exam­ ple in the accuracy of local variants in Catholic ritual or the pitch of the church bells.

In La bohème Puccini also devoted effort to the musical setting of the Paris loca­ tions for Acts II and III, exactly speci­ fied in the libretto, although there were significant differences compared with Leoncavallo’s parallel setting of the same material. While Verdi, Ponchielli, Boïto and Gomes initially adopted key elements of the grand opéra of Giacomo Meyerbeer and his contemporaries, the “giovane scuola” were more strongly in­ fluenced by composers such as Georges Bizet, Charles Gounod or Jules Mass­ enet. Unlike grand opéra, which was only taken up with significant delay, the works of the latter group were rel­ atively quickly performed south of the Alps. Puccini’s enthusiasm for Carmen, which he heard in Milan in 1880, is rep­ resentative of the broad reception of the opera by the Italian musicians of his generation. There were several reasons for the fascination that Carmen had for the younger Italian composers. In contrast to the Verdi opera La traviata, also re­ garded as a precursor of verismo, which is set in the aristocratic and grand bour­ geois Paris of the mid-19th century, Carmen is “a tragedy which clashes with the classicist standard in being set in a milieu which a Marxist would describe as the lowest of the low, the mob. The bourgeois tragedy, the earliest protest against the aristocratic tragedy, is bare­ ly established in the opera, already re­ placed by the plebeian” (Carl Dahlhaus). The natural feel of the characters from the lower classes, the detailed descriptions of the conditions of their social milieux, the extreme intensity of the emotions, and finally the creation of the basic emotional conflict, which ends fatally for the female protagonist, without giving her the opportunity (in

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ARNOLD JACOBSHAGEN

line with the older opera tradition) to say farewell to the world in an aria, are some of the elements of a realism pre­ viously unknown on the opera stage, which had key dramatic features of the later verismo. Besides the novelty of the story as a subject for opera, Carmen also offered concrete musical and dramatic models whose reception is clear in numerous scores from the field of verismo. In more recent research, Michele Girar­ di in particular has shown direct links with Bizet’s examples in Puccini’s La bohème. The analogies are present in both the dramatic basis and the musical disposition. The much-quoted realism of Bizet’s musical language is due not least to the fact that in Carmen a significant part of the numbers are fragments of reality, either “musical themselves or musical­ ly presented sounds (Carl Dahlhaus). Carmen’s habañera, the séguidilla or the chanson bohème, for example, appear as musical numbers within the stage ac­ tion. Here, Bizet is following a tradition with a long history in opéra comique. The situation was different in Italian opera, where there was no place for the spoken word, with the exception of spe­ cific regional traditions or conventional scenes such as the “letter scene”. Where the increase in stage music in Italian opera was due on the one hand to the tradition of the “banda sul palco”, partly rooted in the institutional histo­ ry of the Austrian military occupation, and on the other hand to the adoption of grand opéra, the opera of verismo was characterized by the alternation between musically loosely structured scenes and tightly defined numbers in the form of stage music and stage songs. In Puccini the use of stage music (which

is present in all his operas, with the ex­ ception of Le villi) and all other forms of music intrinsic to the drama has no such “realistic” intent. Although Act III of Manon Lescaut (1893) in particular has a very strong military element, Puccini rejects all mil­ itary stage music, with the exception of an extended drum roll. At the same time, the general increase in “music in­ trinsic to the drama” which was typical of that period shows in Manon Lescaut Act II, where the historical colour is pro­ vided by a series of pieces in the style of the 18th century (madrigal, minuet, ar­ iette), meshed with the events on stage. In Tosca (1900) cannon shots, rifle sal­ voes, drumbeats and bells on stage pro­ vide realistic sounds supporting the en­ hanced dimension of violence required by grand guignol. Puccini accompanies the execution scene in Act III exclusive­ ly with the pit orchestra (except for the rifle shots), where the entrance and exit of the execution squad is matched by the funeral march motif which under­ lays the entire act. Other key stylistic features of the veristic aesthetic can be seen at most in fragments following French models like Carmen. Musically, these include the high register of the vocal writing for the in­ dividual voices, the transition from singing to speaking or screaming at drama­ tic high points to make clear the crossing of affective boundaries, a melodic line charged with unison and octave doublings, the free use of style elements which are gestural and create redundancy (e.g. tremoli, ostinati, in­ sistently recurring motifs), the prefer­ ence for irregular rhythms and phrase lengths, development of extreme dy­ namic climaxes, increasingly dense orchestration and emotional vocal out­

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PUCCINI AND VERISMO

breaks, and finally the integration of a symphonic intermezzo as a delaying element before the catastrophe. In Puccini we find such symphonic intermezzi in Le villi, Manon Lescaut, Madama Butterfly and Suor Angelica. As lyrical “islands” the intermezzi mostly provide a clear contrast to the drastic nature of the subsequent events and their merciless artistic presentation, which is entirely in the service of ele­ mental design intents. “Frenzy, intoxi­ cation, shock, catastrophe” act here “as pillars of an aesthetic of impact which cannot be derived from a poetology of the genre or other opera-specific param­ eters” (Sieghard and Sabine Döhring). Puccini has adopted and developed the veristic approaches of an extended vo­ cal treatment beyond bel canto to a very different extent in his operas. There are particularly diverse uses of the vocal parts, for example in La fanciulla del West, a score which requires “rhythmic speaking, screaming, howling and mur­ muring from both soloists and chorus” (Gerd Uecker). Other unusual vocal techniques, such as the female chorus in Madama Butterfly, which is hummed pianissimo and accompanied by a viola d’amore behind the stage, enrich the oriental palette with sound effects whose lite­ rally unheard delicacy are as remote as possible from the veristic brutality. Puccini aims at a maximum ethno­ graphic and musical authenticity in his last opera, Turandot, also committed to exoticism. There is an aesthetic tension again between the realistic and fairytale elements of the action. “In setting the work, Puccini let himself be guided by the paradigms of realistic dramaturgy. He found a musically authentic lan­ guage to present place and time; the

stereotyping and one-dimensionality of the characters which are dominant in veristic opera are reflected in an eclec­ tic dramatic montage” (Hans Joachim Wagner). In this way, we see how sty­ listic features of verismo are integrated into Turandot, as in all other Puccini operas, each within individual concepts drawing on the full range of composi­ tional options available at the start of the 20th century.

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Following page: WOLFGANG KOCH as SCARPIA KS ANNA NETREBKO as TOSCA


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GIACOMO PUCCINI, 8 JANUARY 1900

TOSCA WILL MOST LIKELY HAVE ITS WORLD PREMIÈRE ON SATURDAY, THE 13TH OF THE MONTH. AT THE MOMENT, THE THEATRE OWNS ME BODY AND SOUL. WE’RE REHEARSING 10 HOURS A DAY!


HERBERT ROSENDORFER

LA TOSCA BETWEEN NAPOLEON AND PUCCINI The eerily beautiful, tragic, and ex­ tremely gripping story of the singer Floria Tosca is not based on history, although the location and era are more precisely defined than is typically the case for a play, and much less so an opera. The source used by Puccini’s libret­tist was Victorien Sardou’s drama La Tosca, which was premièred in 1887. Sardou (1831-1908) was a playwright much-performed in his day and an accom­plished stage performer who was without doubt skilled at writing scenes and dialogue, but whose perfectionism ultimately left him in an idle state with his profession. If it had not been for Puccini’s Tosca libretto, virtually nothing of Sardou’s work would have stood the test of time. Sardou wrote La Tosca and several of his other works for Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923), who played the title role in the world première and went on tour with this production, amongst other places to Milan in 1889. It was there that the 31-year-old Puccini, who at the time was working on his second opera Edgar, saw one of the performances. He was thrilled, even though – according to one anecdote – he supposedly under­ stood only one word, namely Tosca’s cry: “Malheureuse! Malheureuse!” In actual fact Puccini probably under­ stood somewhat more than that as he spoke some French, albeit poorly. At all events, he was immediately interested

in the story, as a letter to Ricordi from this time shows. We do not know whether Ricordi took steps to acquire the rights to the play for Puccini. The world-famous Sar­ dou, who had written libretti for Offen­ bach, Saint-Saëns and Massenet, would scarcely have handed the play over to a beginner like Puccini. The project fell by the wayside. It was not until seve­ ral years later that Puccini, now famous himself, remembered Tosca, but in the interim the rights had been promised elsewhere. Puccini’s publisher Ricor­ di had in fact acquired the rights from Sardou, not for Puccini but for Alber­ to Baron Franchetti, a composer long since forgotten; he was nearly the same age as Puccini (born in 1850), studied in Germany with Felix Draeseke and others and tried to blend the musical language of verismo with the techniques of Wag­ ner. The established librettist Luigi Illi­ ca had been commissioned by Ricordi to write a libretto based on Sardou’s La Tosca for Franchetti, who was already composing music for the opera. Another anecdote tells us that Franchetti and Illica had travelled to Paris to see Sardou and discuss the de­ tails of reworking the drama into a li­ bretto. Giuseppe Verdi was the time also in Paris for the première of his Otello at the Opéra. (If the story is true, this meeting could only have taken place between 26 September and 22 October

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LA TOSCA BETWEEN NAPOLEON AND PUCCINI

The very next day, Ricordi closed the 1894.) Verdi was apparently well known deal with Puccini. to Sardou – which seems questionable The negotiations almost foundered to me, because the name Sardou does on Sardou’s demand for 50,000 francs not appear a single time in the entire correspondence between Verdi and – back then a horrendous amount. Fin­ Boito – and was said to have been pre­ ally, he agreed to 15 per cent of the royal­ ties. At the time, in 1895, Puccini was sent at one of the meetings between also working on Bohème, which was Sardou, Franchetti and Illica. premièred on 1 February 1896 in Turin. When Illica read Cavaradossi’s long Then in 1896 and 1897 the libretto for patriotic monologue from the third act of the libretto out loud, Verdi appar­ Tosca had to be rewritten – a lengthy process – to meet the intractable (but ently tore the page from the librettist’s hands and read the verses “with a trem­ certainly valid) wishes of Puccini. At Puccini’s urging, Giuseppe Giacosa was bling voice”. Verdi supposedly said that brought in by Ricordi as co-author. Gia­ he would compose Tosca himself, if he cosa and Illica had already worked to­ wasn’t too old to do so. Puccini later called the monologue “Latin hymn” on gether for Puccini on the Bohème libret­ several occasions, but he ultimately cut to and would also write the libretto for it and replaced it with the simple lines Madama Butterfly after Tosca. Giacosa he himself had written: “E lucevan le and Illica shortened Sardou’s five-act stelle”. Apparently Puccini heard about drama to three acts, cut the number of Verdi’s enthusiastic comments, where­ characters from nearly twenty to nine, and eliminated sub-plots. upon he took an interest in the story Background information that is per­ at the beginning of 1895, but this time more energetically. haps unimportant to the musical drama Franchetti was not an unknown but of interest in terms of understand­ composer, but in the meantime Pucci­ ing the historicizing intentions of Sar­ ni had become famous. Ricordi, for this dou and Puccini. We know that Puccini reason naturally preferring a Puccini was striving for historical accuracy in Tos­ca to one by Franchetti, started play­ this opera; he wanted the costuming for ing a game with Franchetti which al­ his musical drama to be perfect so hired a liturgical consultant (Padre Pani­chel­ though not as cruel as Scarpia’s actions was no less shameful. Unfortunately, li) and gathered physical/acoustic in­ we must add that Illica and Puccini also formation about the sound of the bells participated in this game. Franchet­ in Rome. Sardou’s drama and Puccini’s ti, who was evidently extremely self- ope­ra take place on two precisely de­ deprecating, had expressed his doubts fined days: on 17 June 1800, a Tuesday, about his own work. Now Ricordi, Illi­ and dawn the following day, Wednesday. The action all takes place in Rome, ca and perhaps also Puccini (who was the first act in the Basilica of Sant’ a friend of Franchetti’s) took this same tack. They overstated their doubts, dis­ Andrea della Valle, the second in the paraged the libretto and Sardou’s dra­ Palaz­zo Farnese, the third “on the bat­ ma, and suddenly found that the sub­ tlements of the Castel Sant’Angelo.” (In ject was unmusical and the story crude. Sardou there is also a ball scene and Franchetti withdrew from the contract. a prison scene.) The Basilica of Sant’

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HERBERT ROSENDORFER

the most beautiful. It is considered the Andrea della Valle, one of the main chapter churches (currently of the Car­ triumphant pinnacle of Renaissance architecture in Rome; construction was dinal of Genoa) although not one of the seven principal churches in Rome, started in 1514 for Cardinal Farnese (hence the name), later Pope Paul III, stands on modern-day Corso Vittorio and only completed more than 30 years Emanuele and was built between 1591 and 1625. Three major baroque archi­ later. Antonio Sangallo Jr., Michelange­ tects were involved in its construction: lo and finally Giacomo Della Porta were Giovanni Francesco Grimaldi, Giaco­ the architects. The famous Galleria mo Della Porta and Carlo Maderna, with the mythological frescoes of An­ who in 1622-1625 built the dome which nibale Carraccis – his great masterpiece is the second largest in Rome after the – is on the first floor. Basilica of St Peter. The magnificent But Scarpia’s office, according to façade was added between 1655 and the stage directions, is on the lower 1665 by Carlo Rainaldi. In Sardou’s play, floor; from there, the frescoes cannot one character (not included in the ope­ be seen. After Cardinal Farnese became ra), the Conte Capreola, points out the pope in 1534, the half-finished palace curious fact that the otherwise strict became the property of the pope’s son, symmetry of the façade is incomplete: Duke Pier Ludovico Farnese of Parma. the gigantic angel to the left of the gable The king of Spain inherited the duchy has no right counterpart. in northern Italy from the last Duke The existing angel is pointing up­ of Farnese, along with the “attached” wards. Perhaps he is indicating that pa­lace in Rome. the other angel has flown away. In Sant’ The duchy was then inherited by Andrea della Valle there is no “Cappel­ the newest branch of the Spanish Bourbons, with the palace in Rome go­ la Attavanti” as stipulated in the stage directions. If the term “right” refers ing to the middle or Neapolitan branch. topographically not just to the stage but At the end of the 18th century, the to the church, then the Cappella Lance­ reigning king of Naples and Sicily, Fer­ lotti would be indicated. It however dinand IV, became the owner of Palaz­ does not contain an image of Maria zo Farnese. Like nearly all Spanish and Magdalena by the hand of one Maria Neapolitan Bourbons, Ferdinand was a Cavaradossi, but a “Flight to Egypt” in ridiculous character, but his wife Arch­ the form of a sculptural relief by An­ duchess Maria Carolina of Austria, one tonio Raggi (1675). Angelotti’s first ap­ of Maria Theresa’s daughters, was am­ pearance in Sardou’s play is almost fun­ bitious and unscrupulous, ruling the country with the help of her favourite, ny: he appears dressed in the women’s Lord Acton, and the English ambas­ clothing in which he had escaped from the Castel Sant’Angelo. sador Lord Hamilton (husband of the Puccini dispensed with this effect. infamous lady). Above all, following The Palazzo Farnese is two hundred the execution of her sister Marie An­ paces behind Sant’Andrea della Valle toinette, Queen Maria Carolina was going towards the Tiber, on the square the harshest and most implacable op­ by the same name. It is one of the lar­ ponent of the French Revolution and gest palaces in Rome and also one of Bonaparte.

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KS ERWIN SCHROTT as SCARPIA



HERBERT ROSENDORFER

On 13 February 1798 French troops under Bonaparte’s deputy in Italy, Bri­ gadier General Berthier, had marched into Rome – and this is where this di­ gression into historical background re­ turns to Tosca. The secular rule of the pope was declared to be over, a Roman republic based on the French model was established. (The Cesare Angelotti of the opera was – not historically – one of the consuls of this republic.) The el­ derly Pope Pius VI was taken prisoner by the French and abducted to France, where he died in 1799. Retaliation against the French was not long coming. Bonaparte’s adven­ turous and useless expedition to Egypt, the successes achieved by Archduke Charles and the Russian general Suvo­ rov forced the French to concentrate their forces in northern Italy and relin­ quish Rome. Neapolitan general Cardi­ nal Ruffo immediately started advan­ cing. In September 1799 Rome fell into the hands of the Neapolitans. Since Pope Pius VI had died in Au­ gust 1799 and no successor had yet been elected, without being asked but as depu­ty of a pope who did not exist for the moment, Queen Maria Caro­ lina took over the regency in Rome. She took up residence at the Palazzo Farnese, which rightly belonged to her. A brutal reckoning ensued. Scarpia is not a historic character, but Maria Caro­ lina in fact used henchmen just like him in Rome; they arrested, tortured and killed many who were suspected even to a lesser degree of being republicans. On 14 March 1800, the former Car­ dinal Chiaramonti was elected pope in Venice and assumed the name Pius VII. (This has to date been the only time in the modern era that the papal conclave convened outside Rome.) Initially the

pope stayed in Venice. Pius VII did not move to Rome until a good two weeks after the third act of Tosca. In the mean­ time, Bonaparte had amassed and con­ centrated his troops again. He took over supreme command in Italy himself and closed in for the big victory. After the devastating defeats of 1799, the last stronghold of the French had been Liguria and its capital Ge­ noa. In May 1800 Genoa was besieged by land by the Austrians and by sea by an English-Neapolitan fleet; it was conquered on 6 June, and the French General Soult was taken prisoner. The opponents of the revolution rejoiced mightily but prematurely. Bonaparte advanced along the St Bernhard Pass – a march that had been considered im­ possible – and defeated the Austrians on 14 June 1800 at Marengo, indeed so decisively that they were forced to agree to a ceasefire and retreat and finally (1801) to sign the Treaty of Lunéville. The Battle of Marengo took a strange course. It began at 9 o’clock with the Austrians attacking, under the command of the aged General Me­ las, and ended – apparently – towards noon with an almost complete victory over the French. General Melas, who was slightly wounded, retired from the battlefield too early, leaving what he believed was the rest of the battle to his chief of staff. At that moment French veteran Kellermann launched a surprise attack with his dragoons, knocking out the Austrian emplacements. The Aus­ trians panicked, the commanding chief of staff was captured, and a short while later the supposed victory of the Austri­ ans was transformed into a defeat, end­ ing in chaos and flight. But General Melas had already sent off news of the victory, and it arrived

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LA TOSCA BETWEEN NAPOLEON AND PUCCINI

two days later in Rome. There a Te Deum was sung for the victory in Act 1 of Tos­ca. Furthermore in Act 2 a ball was to take place at the Palazzo Farnese. Not until near the end of Act 2 does Rome and therefore Scarpia learn the real outcome of the Battle of Marengo. Cavaradossi, who has just been tor­ tured, cries out exultantly: “Vittoria! Vittoria! Libertà, sorge, crollan tiran­ nidi!” (“Victory! Victory! Liberty arises, tyranny crumbles!”) His joy is premature. Cavaradossi would not witness it: Bonaparte does not use the victory and subsequent Peace of Lunéville to promote peace in Italy. Instead of overthrowing the tyrants, he joins forces with them and himself becomes the worst of all: the nouveau-riche Emperor Napoleon. The third act takes place at dawn on the ramparts of Castel Sant’Angelo. In its original form, which today we can only imagine, the Castel Sant’ Angelo was built as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian and completed in 139 AD un­ der Antonius Pius. It served as the place of burial for emperors and their fami­ lies, later as a fortress, a treasury, and a prison. In 590 AD, the legend goes, during a procession praying for the end of the plague, Pope Gregory the Great had a vision of Archangel Michael who, symbolizing the longed-for end of the epidemic, was putting his sword into its sheath. It is said that the pope thereupon or­ dered the statue of the angel to be built at the top of the ramparts, giving rise to the name. The angels have changed. An older piece perhaps by Guglielmo Della Portas, or perhaps by Raffaelo da Montelupo, that had watched over the fortress since the 16th century is now in one of the courtyards of the castle.

The current angel took its place only in 1752 (or 1753) and was created by the Flemish sculptor Pieter van Verschaffelt. Next to the angel is the Misericordia Bell that was used to announce execu­ tions. Benvenuto Cellini, Beatrice Cenci, Giordano Bruno, Cagliostro and many others languished in the dungeons at Castel Sant’Angelo – and also Mario Cavaradossi. Sardou’s play offers more detail about Cavaradossi’s background: he was a pupil of Jacques-Louis David, the French Revolution painter and for that reason alone suspect to the hench­ men of the movement. However, a problem does arise in Act 3, stemming from the fact that perhaps neither Sardou nor Giacosa and Illica had ever climbed through the winding passages of the Hadrian Mausoleum, all the way up to the angel. There is nowhere where you can jump from the top level down, at least not as foreseen in the opera. You would have to climb over walls and then, if you jumped, you would at most land on the next level down. After jumping, Tosca would have done no more than sprain her ankle, painful as that may be. But that is naturally a minor matter. Very different discrepancies have not harmed opera libretti of far greater authenticity. Although written by a composer who was not Roman and who never stayed very long in Rome, Tosca has become THE opera of the Eternal City.

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Following pages: KS JONAS KAUFMANN as CAVARADOSSI




SI LV I A K A RGL

MARGARETE WALLMANN TOSCA AS A LIVING MONUMENT TO AN ICONIC DIRECTOR Since August 2020, a memorial plaque set in the paving stones in front of the Mozart House in Salzburg has served as a reminder of the dancer, choreogra­ pher, director, stage designer and dance teacher Margarete Wallmann. She was dismissed by the Wiener Staatsoper in 1938 because of her Jewish heritage, af­ ter which she worked in South America during the war. What greater affirmation of the art­ ist’s work could there be than the fact that her staging of Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca has been in the repertoire at one of the greatest opera houses in the world since 3 April 1958? Generations of per­ formers and audience members have as it were grown up at the Wiener Staats­ oper with a production that remains en­ chanting to this day. This production is most probably one of the most-seen ope­ ras in the world. The fact that we still know far too little about Margarete Wallmann’s life may be due if nothing else to the fact that her memoirs Les balcons du ciel were published in 1976 only in French, and in them she reveals very little about herself (new edition with the title Sous le ciel de l’opéra, 2004). For several years now, two dance historians and a journalist have been researching and correcting wrongly recorded information: Andrea Amort, Gunhild Oberzaucher-Schüller and Ulrike Messer-Krol. Accordingly,

it has now been established that Mar­ garete Wallmann was born in 1904 not in Vienna, but in Berlin. Her profession­ al ballet training started with Euge­nia Eduardova, a former ballerina at the le­ gendary St Petersburg Mariinsky Thea­ tre who toured with Anna Pavlova and settled in Berlin in 1920. She then stud­ ied with Heinrich Kröller, who was bal­ let master at the Wiener Staatsoper from 1922 to 1928. From 1923 on she was part of the studio of Mary Wigman, one of the leading representatives of German Ex­ pressionist Dance. This innovative con­ temporary dance movement seemed to intrigue Wallmann more than “just” classical ballet did. She soon established her own company and started getting heavily involved in modern dance train­ ing. Almost incidentally, she becomes a dance educator and networker who was open to and interested in a wide variety of art disciplines. This is evident not least from her friendship with Amer­ ican dance pioneer Ted Shawn, who hired Wallmann for several weeks as a teacher at the new Denishawn School of Dancing and Related Arts in Los An­ geles, which he founded together with his wife Ruth St Denis. Performances by Wallmann’s dance troupe did not go un­ noticed in Europe. Wallmann first choreographed and/ or staged works in summer 1931, pre­

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M A RG A R E T E WA L L M A N N

senting pieces by Felix Emmel. Das jüngste Gericht (The Last Judgement) to music by Handel is a “movement dra­ ma” that Wallmann staged and cho­ reographed for the Salzburg Festival and in which she performed the role of “Mercy”. A serious accident where she fell into the orchestra pit put an end to her career as a dancer and forced her to spend several months in a wheelchair. That same year the Salzburg Festi­ val saw her first collaboration with the great conductor Bruno Walter, with performances of Wallmann’s choreog­ raphy of Christoph Willibald Gluck’s opera Orfeo ed Euridice. Starting in 1933, Wallmann directed a celebrated series of performances. Wallmann was also hired as director when these produc­ tions moved to the Wiener Staatsoper in 1935. She was friends with Bruno Walter and remained so until his death in 1962. Amongst other things, the historical archives of the Vienna Philharmonic house Walter’s letters to Wallmann on the subject of Orfeo ed Euridice, from which it is clear that she was not only very familiar with the music but was also readily able to read scores. From the standpoint of both of them, it was a collaboration on equal terms between conductor and director and could not have been better. Margarete Wallmann moved to Vien­ na in 1933. Just prior to doing so she had married the bassoonist and chair of the Vienna Philharmonic, Hugo Burghau­ ser. Burghauser engaged both Bruno Walter, who had been forbidden to con­ duct in National Socialist Germany from 1933 on, and also Arturo Toscanini for the Vienna Philharmonic. In 1937 Wall­ mann choreographed the dance scenes in Falstaff at the Salzburg Festival, con­ ducted by Toscanini. Toscanini became

friends with the couple and went on holi­ day with them to Lago Maggiore. In Vienna, Wallmann was promoted to ballet mistress/director of the Staats­ oper Ballet in 1934 and also directed the Ballet School of the Wiener Staatsoper until 1938. In 1935 her career took an­ other leap forward when she signed a film contract as choreographer for Met­ ro Goldwyn Mayer and created the cho­ reography for Anna Karenina with Greta Garbo, amongst other projects. Later she choreographed films with Gina Lol­ lobrigida, Sophia Loren and Vittorio Gassman. Wallmann came very close to writing history for the Philharmonic, especially since Hugo Burghauser had travelled with her to Hollywood; nego­ tiations for the first guest performance by the Vienna Philharmonic in the USA failed at the last minute. From 1936 to 1938 Wallmann was also choreographer at La Scala Milan. She had received an offer in 1937 to take over directorship of the ballet at the Tea­ tro Colón in Buenos Aires. She accep­ted for autumn 1938, in part because her marriage to Burghauser had failed and her new partner Guido Valcarenghi was working as director of the Ricordi pub­ lishing house in Buenos Aires. On the ship in 1938 she received the news of her dismissal from the Wiener Staatsoper because of her Jewish heritage. In South America, she reconnect­ ed with another close artistic and pre­ sumably also personal friend who had already fled Austria in 1934. “What a mistake that Reinhardt did not select you for the dance work,” author Stefan Zweig wrote to her in 1935 from Lon­ don, referring to Reinhardt’s film ver­ sion of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In 1940 after moving to Rio de Janeiro he contacted Wallmann in Buenos Aires.

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SI LV I A K A RGL

The two were making plans for a joint ballet on Brazilian themes that was ne­ ver completed. On 23 February 1942 Zweig took his own life. After the end of the Second World War, Margarete Wallmann returned to Europe but made occasional sorties to America, and in 1949 she returned to the La Scala Milan ballet. Her career as a freelance director took her to major theatres, including the Wiener Staats­ oper, Berlin, Milan, Paris and the New York Metropolitan Opera. In 1952 at the request of Clemens Krauss she directed Richard Strauss’s Die Liebe der Danae with Viorica Ursuleac in Buenos Aires. In 1953 she staged Luigi Cherubini’s Medea in Milan, conducted by Leonard Bernstein and in which Maria Callas made opera history. In 1958 Wallmann staged Puccini’s Turandot also at La Sca­ la and in which Birgit Nilsson shone. Also in 1958 her production of Tosca with Renata Tebaldi was mounted at the Wiener Staatsoper. She had known the

Following pages: KS CAMILLA NYLUND as TOSCA

conductor of the production for many years; at the Salzburg Festival in 1933 he had conducted the dance scenes cho­ reographed by her in Max Reinhardt’s production of Goethe’s Faust: Herbert von Karajan. Wallmann directed three more operas at the opera house on the Ring: Giuseppe Verdi’s La forza del destino in 1960, Turandot again with Birgit Nilsson in 1961, and Verdi’s Don Carlo in 1962. “What you do and what you have achieved is marvellous,“ Bruno Wal­ ter wrote. This is also reflected in the list of people she corresponded with, which included Manuel de Falla, Ar­ thur Honegger, Francis Poulenc, Dari­ us Milhaud, Gottfried von Einem, Max Reinhardt and Lotte Lehman, amongst others. Shared ideas connected her to all of them, and these frequently resulted in projects and performances. On 2 May 1992 Margarete Wallmann died in her chosen home of Monte Carlo, where she is also buried.

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BETTINA VON ARNIM

EVERY ART IS THERE INDEPENDENTLY TO BANISH DEATH AND LEAD PEOPLE TO HEAVEN.




OLIVER LÁNG

TOO MUCH AND TOO LITTLE DRAMA HOW PEOPLE EXPERIENCED PUCCINI’S TOSCA IN VIENNA There is no great opera without Vien­ nese stories. In the case of Tosca, one of the best known stories comes from Maria Jeritza’s rehearsals with Puccini, a story she was happy to tell and tell often. “Dress rehearsal was the follow­ ing day. We were all trying to give of our best because Puccini was there, but Scarpia was overdoing it. He gave me a push, but so hard that I fell down. How­ ever, since I didn’t want to interrupt the rehearsal, I stayed lying there and sang the aria [Vissi dʼarte] lying on the floor. Puccini clapped enthusiastically. ‘That’s it!’ he called out. ‘Don’t ever do it differ­ ently. That was divine inspiration.’” This story, true or not, is about one thing above all: the instinct of a consum­ mate performer who was able to recog­ nize, take advantage of and present on stage the power of theatre, both in gene­ ral and in a spontaneous moment. Yet it was precisely this so-called theatrical effect that Viennese critics took excep­ tion to in Tosca. They took exception to it in 1900 when the first reviews trick­ led from Italy, talking about “dramatic coefficients” and “grating” moments in Tosca, they took exception to it most particularly in 1907 when the work was first presented at the Volksoper in Vien­ na, and they took exception to it for decades. 1907 then: the reviews talked

about absolute horror, emotional abuse, trashy writing, a horror play and the like, meaning not just Sardou’s play, but also Puccini’s opera. Their views were backed up by Gustav Mahler, whose dis­ approval of Tosca was well known. For example, he wrote after a performance in Ljubljana: “Yesterday evening I attended the opera Tosca by Puccini. A splendid per­ formance in every regard, such that you are amazed to find something like this in an Austrian country town. But the piece! In the first act papal procession with incessant jangling of bells (that were ordered specially from Italy) – Act 2 the hideous cries of someone being tortured, someone else is stabbed to death with a pointed bread knife. – Act 3 More jingle-jangling of bells, once again with a view across Rome from a citadel, once again another set of bells – and one soldier in the troop executed by firing squad. Before the shooting, I stood up and left. One need not men­ tion that the whole thing is once again a masterly piece of trash (‘Meistermach­ werk’); these days any cobbler’s boy can produce splendid orchestrations.” The expression used by Mahler can be taken to mean something more positive than might appear at first glance, but Mahler nevertheless did not put Tosca on the

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TOO MUCH AND TOO LITTLE DRAMA

schedule. It was only performed at the Court Opera under his successor, Felix von Weingartner, in 1910. The critics did not hold back in their opinions about the goal and reason. “The Court Opera has scheduled Tosc­a with the clear goal of having a box office draw. It is questionable enough that one must rely on box office hits without taking account of taste when one could at this point put a stop to it,” wrote the Neue Wiener Journal. Similar arguments were found in newspapers with such diverse biases as the paper of the Austrian Socialist Party (Arbeiterzeitung) and Der Humorist; the latter iden­ tified a “stew of abominations, torture, murder and execution” in the opera. The master critic of the Neue Freie Presse, Ju­ lius Korngold, also thundered as expec­ ted; he later entered into a friendship of convenience with Puccini for the benefit of his adolescent composer son, Erich Wolfgang Korngold. The opera had “not improved at all since 1907, but rather to our mind has acquired the charac­ teristics of a cadaver. A scathingly raw melodrama like Sardou’s Tosca should not be written; but if it is written at all, it should certainly not be set to music. If only the brutal primal force of a Ver­ di had tackled the story! The carefully weighed refinement of Puccini made the final product even more repulsive.” And: The writing on the wall portends the downfall of the Court Opera. With so much outrage the produc­ tion itself was almost overlooked and was, amazingly initially not stormed to the extent expected. At all events the books at first recorded good, but by no means sensational numbers. The work only became a best-seller much later. The first Court Opera Tosca then: con­ ducted by Weingartner, who cast his

wife Lucie Marcel (the great Elektra performer!) in the title role. The reviews of her varied widely: seldom completely convinced, mostly hypercritical. By the same token, Erik Schmedes as Cavara­ dossi was felt to be too much of a heroic tenor and Leopold Demuth as Scarpia was too good-natured. Nevertheless: Weingartner! And the orchestra! said the critics. A propos of nothing, in its rush to ap­ pease, the Court Opera softened the offending sections, both in the music and the staging, plunging the stage re­ peatedly in an atmospheric and dim ambience, and especially in Act 1 where the painted backdrop was reminiscent of the interior of the Sant’Andrea della Valle viewed from the front. Cavarados­ si’s cries of pain were subdued or cut altogether, no blood was seen after his torture, the rifles rattle more discreetly than at the Volksoper; after all, we were on Ringstrasse and not the Gürtel. The opera stayed on the schedule. Director Hans Gregor was well-known as a Puccini fan, but things looked dif­ ferent with his successor Strauss. In his later concept of the ideal opera house in the ideal opera city, he omitted Puc­ cini completely; after all, he wrote, his works are comparable to a “delicate veal sausage”: it satisfies you for a short time, but then gives way to “real” hunger. And yet: during Strauss’s years as director there was an astonishing amount of veal sausage on the menu, Puccini was the second-most performed composer un­ der Strauss. A tribute to the box office? It was during this period that a new production of Tosca was introduced with Maria Jeritza, previously mentioned, in the title role: her life role that she was to sing for nearly 40 years at the Staats­ oper. “She is touching in the first act, al­

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TOO MUCH AND TOO LITTLE DRAMA

most unaware of her beauty. She main­ tains this quality of sweet graciousness through all the tragic events of the sec­ ond and third act. Tosca is from the same realm as Carmen and possess nothing more than the gift of natural grace and seductive femininity” enthuses the fa­ mous Viennese critic Elsa Bienenfeld. Almost immediately after the Second World War a new production of Tosca was mounted at the Volksoper (one of the alternative venues for the damaged Staatsoper), which Alfred Jerger direc­ ted with plenty of brouhaha. But opin­ ions of the opera had changed, the opera was no longer a theatre devil for critics, and what was still found to be brutal was now accepted, legitimized. Above all, Tosca was now more than ever a cen­ tral component of the repertoire. In four years, it was performed eighty times! And then in 1949 another new produc­ tion was performed, in German again, but this time at the Theater an der Wien. Anticipation was great, patrons queued for up to eleven hours to get tickets, the police had to be called in to calm things down. In terms of the arguments presented, the reviewers had changed their tune. Tosca now had an “admittedly tight, dra­ matically effective libretto” that Puccini (“the maestro”) had set to music with “unerring instinct.” “Only cold-hearted snobs can avoid being affected by this music which exhibits everything that a genius can offer.” (Kleines Volksblatt) The situation was similar with other newspapers that wanted to protect Puc­ cini from supposed criticism: He had written nothing just for theatrical effect, even though the question was cautiously asked: Is Tosca perhaps kitschy? These were however side issues, the main thing now was the new produc­ KS SIR BRYN TERFEL as SCARPIA MARIA AGRESTA as TOSCA

tion, not the work itself. And the work caused a sensation. With Ljuba Welitsch the opening night audience experienced a Tosca whose thrilling vocal technique was entirely in keeping with the action; “she completely blurs the boundaries that separate vocal art from acting art, only the incredible performance re­ mains,” wrote the Wiener Zeitung. Helge Roswaenge: a magnificent Caravadossi. Josef Krips as conductor: a sensation. The enthusiasm of the reviewers was almost boundless. In Adolf Rott, the Staats­oper engaged a Burgtheater direc­ tor at the opera house who used symbo­ lism to great effect. Scarpia’s informants wore black uniforms reminiscent of the Nazi era, while behind the tapestry in the Palazzo Farnese which Tosca tore from the wall one caught a glimpse of a dungeon window. Rott also tried to derive the realism of the action from the emotional world of the characters and not show them simply with imposed emotions. All in all, a successful production which af­ ter the reopening of opera house on the Ring in 1955 moved back there, al­ though it was replaced by another new production three years later. And then there it was, the Tosca of Margarete Wallmann, which has gone down in Viennese opera history if nothing else for its extremely long run and number of performances (by 2021: more than 620 performan­ces). Conducted by Her­ bert von Karajan, then director of the opera house, who – if the critics are to be believed – achieved the virtually in­ credible. Tosca was now performed in the original language, now an interna­ tional ensemble was on the stage, just as Karajan wished. The fact that his interpretation was sometimes “grating” was now, in con­

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TOO MUCH AND TOO LITTLE DRAMA

trast to 1958, considered entirely appro­­priate. The fact that Renata Tebaldi per­ formed a noble, vocally even title cha­ racter on the other hand had for some too little theatrical effect. For Herbert Schneiber at the Kurier she was only a “Tosca ma non troppo”. For this re­ viewer the performance was lacking the “eruptive and vulgar” that peo­ ple associate with Tosca. Suddenly what was demanded was the “fatefuldemonic” – in other words, the grand theatrical effect. Similarly, Giu­ seppe Zampieri was not coarse enough for some, too little dramatic. Where half a century earlier, Puccini had been too drastic, now he could not be drastic enough. And just to be on the safe side, as a short time earlier at the Staatsoper première of Madama Butterfly, some cri­

tics defended Puccini from supposed op­ ponents as an entirely serious composer. The production has since experi­ enced a great deal. The renowned artists who have stood on the stage since 1958 are legion, so many that they can scarce­ ly be counted. And although one critic prophesied after the first performance at the Court Opera that there would ne­ver be a Tosca jubilee performance at the op­ era house on the Ring, a great many have taken place in the meantime. This proves that in the case of Tosca audiences recog­ nized the great theatrical and musical quality of the work much earlier and more subtly than those who accused Puccini for decades of being merely an audacious but talented hawker of thea­ trical effects.

34


REVIEW IN WIENER BILDER AFTER THE PREMIÈRE AT THE VIENNA COURT OPERA. TOSCA RECEIVED ITS 1,000TH PERFORMANCE AT VIENNA STATE OPERA IN 2013.

WE CAN SAY RIGHT NOW THAT TOSCA WILL NEVER HAVE A JUBILEE AT THE VIENNA COURT OPERA.


JENDRIK SPRINGER

THE SOUND OF THE UNDEAD SCARPIA A GUIDE TO THE TOSCA SCORE In the last century, the works of Giaco­ mo Puccini have come to be viewed radi­ cally differently, not by audiences, who have always been enthusiastic, but by the vast majority of professionals. This is not the case with almost any other composer. While critics were horrified in and from 1900 on (see the Vienna section starting on page 30), expressing their opinions about a supposed obses­ sion with theatrical effects induced by the music publicly and at length, this verdict has since given way to a far more positive and better substantiated view. This article sets out to highlight and ex­ plain certain aspects of Puccini’s Tosca score, and also to illustrate the consi­ derable complexity of his composition technique. In the light of the music dramas of Richard Wagner, one of the first analyti­ cal questions is generally that of leitmo­ tifs, Erinnerungsmotif (remembrance motif ), or other motifs. We need to bear in mind that the musical motif as such (quite independently of Wagner’s ap­ proach) is a natural component of larger cohesive compositions, at least since the baroque period and until 1945. Motifs and themes built on them are developed and then adapted in different ways; va­ ried, transformed, expanded, changed. The composer works with them, deve­

lops them, there are elements that the listener will recognize and that are fun­ damental to the compositional struc­ ture. Naturally Puccini worked with individual, recognizable motifs in this way; but only partly with motifs in a se­ mantic (or even leitmotif ) sense. What does this mean? A semantic motif stands for perhaps a certain person, an action, a situation. Puccini’s Tosca begins with one of these: the first three, very memo­ rable chords stand for Scarpia.

This motif recurs countless times in the opera, but goes through a number of va­ riations (especially rhythmic) and chan­ ges. In terms of harmony and orchest­ ration, Puccini achieved a real feat with this motif: Scarpia’s brutal, cold, over­ bearing demeanour is clearly audible; it is an incredibly suggestive motif that comes across as threatening, strident (with its crash of cymbals on the last

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THE SOUND OF THE UNDEAD SCARPIA

chord) and unpleasant. The harmonic enigmatic nature is irritating. It does not allow a tonal centre to be established. With the Scarpia motif, Puccini reverted to a portion of the whole tone scale that was often used in late Romantic music to indicate the demonic and evil. It can be found in Wagner (above all in the Ring cycle), but is also particularly noticeable in Richard Strauss, who as­ signs it for example to the “evil” couple Herodias/Herod. For late 19th century and early 20th century audiences these sounds certainly had a signalling effect, as did the interval in the Scarpia motif, the tritone. This is an interval of three whole tones that has been regarded as especially tricky (because it defies tona­lity) and unpleasant since the Re­ naissance. This is also why it is called “diabolus in musica” or devil’s interval. As mentioned, the Scarpia motif is used extensively, even in Act 3 when the Ba­ ron is already dead. Here we find it primarily in the lower orchestral parts, very ghostly, shadowy. Scarpia may be dead, but he lives on as the “undead” in his evil deeds (Cavara­ dossi’s execution). A nice detail is that immediately after Tosca murders Scar­ pia, Puccini has the orchestra play the last chord of his motif but in a minor key instead of the usual major. Message: now he is also audibly dead. This motif is definitely varied, but not in the sense that it means something different at the end of the opera from at the beginning. We could interpret this as the static state of Scarpia’s wickedness which does not change at all. However, in line with the other motifs which also do not evolve I would point out that the action takes place in just half a day, and so the cha­ racter of Scarpia would not have much time to change.

Tosca also has a motif that we hear when she first enters (Musical example 2) and repeated later, in Act 2, in her big aria “Vissi d’arte”. Musical example 2

In a feat of incredible subtlety Pucci­ ni also has Cavaradossi use her motif – I had to listen to dozens of performances to dis­cover this! – namely at the point where after her fit of jealousy in Act 1 he sings of her incomparable “fiery dark eyes”: Puccini changes the rhythm of the motif, but it is audible, if perhaps only unconsciously.

Here we notice the composer’s fine craftsmanship, how complex, clever, and subtle his style of working. Cavaradossi and Tosca have a love motif that can be heard in their first duet in Act 1. Later, in Act 3, we hear it again, namely in the delicate cello solo quartet before Cavaradossi’s aria “E lu­ cevan le stelle” in which he reminisces about Tosca and the bliss of being in love. Again, the brilliance of Puccini: in Act 3, before his execution, the theme is still cantabile and entrancingly beau­ tiful, but Puccini has added the painful dissonance of second intervals: we hear that – in contrast to Act 1 – despair and sorrow over the irre­trievably lost now also resonate in the music.

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JENDRIK SPRINGER

A propos cantabile I should add that the musical world of Tosca and Cavaradossi is generally characterized by great singa­ bility: long lines, clearly anchored in to­ nal centres. If we look for example at Ca­ varadossi’s arioso “Recondita armonia” in Act 1, Puccini is less concerned here with meticulous interpretation of the text than the long phrases which create the desired ambience. I emphasize that in particular be­ cause Puccini created a very different musical world for Scarpia. He is denied a big, cantabile aria, his vocal lines (also the orchestra accompaniment) adhere very closely to the sung text. While with Tosca and Cavaradossi the emotions of the artistic soul are supreme, with Scar­ pia the scoring is word-based. These worlds are also different in terms of the instrumentation. The lovers are often accompanied by the round, typically romantic mixed sound (combination of strings with woodwinds or horn), whe­ reas Scarpia is given a harder, “noisier” (as with cymbal clash) music with hea­ vier bass sounds. Musicologists always talk about the “Angelotti motif” (incidentally the names for the motifs are all arbitrary and invented by the exegete; Puccini would never have given his motifs a name) which is heard at the beginning of the opera when the curtain goes up, directly after the Scarpia motif. We hear the expression of the hounded man, but I personally would not assign the mo­ tif only to Angelotti but to the concept of flight, of threats, because it is heard again at points that have nothing direct­ ly to do with him. But his motif shows us once again how Puccini worked with psychology. When in Act 1 Tosca invites Cavaradossi for a night of love, he answers comple­

tely without enthusiasm, distracted and drily with the question “This evening?” In the orchestra we hear the motif just mentioned, so the audience notices that Cavaradossi is thinking not about Tosca – much to her indignation – but about how he can keep Angelotti’s hiding pla­ ce secret from her under these circums­ tances. A character who does not fit at all into the good/evil model is the sacristan. In the music too his characterization has buffoonish elements which Puccini used to underscore the extent of the hero’s fall in the drama (a theatre trick that he took advantage of time and again). One fea­ ture that Puccini abstained from using, with the exception of the beginning of Act 3, is genre scenes intended to create a particular ambience (for example the Christmas market in La bohème); ins­ tead, he drove the action on steadily and rapidly, just as he expedited the dialogue elements and kept the arias and arioso elements as brief as possible. He also did not make use of preludes, such that in each act the curtain goes up after just a few moments. It is therefore not surpri­ sing that Tosca is the shortest and most compact of his works, with the excep­ tion of Le villi and the one-act operas of Il trittico. Especially conspicuous in Tosca is the extensive use of various special instruments and specific sounds, such as bells, organ, cannon shots, rifle fire. Puccini was heavily criticized for this; he was accused of cheap realism and even lack of originality. In fact, all of these things had already been used in other operas by other composers, but never in such accu­mulation. Puccini’s aim was in fact to capture reality; we know that he himself went early in the morning to the Castel to listen to the bells of Rome in

38


THE SOUND OF THE UNDEAD SCARPIA

order to reproduce this as closely as pos­ sible in the opera. The song of the she­ pherd boy is also rooted in realism, as in those days the Castel was located on the outskirts of the city, close to meadows, and even the text of the song is a poem in an Italian dialect. For the murmured prayer before the Te Deum in Act 1 he asked a friend who was a cleric to help him; for the Te Deum itself he used a Ro­ man Catholic hymn. He came up with another particular­ ly unusual and successful idea for Act 2 when Tosca’s singing with choir is heard in the background, Scarpia slams the window shut and in doing so cuts off the music in mid phrase. Naturally in the 21st century we are familiar with all this from films, and perhaps as a result when we are watching today we think

that such banal realism is out of place on the opera stage. I would add for con­ sideration that this film-like treatment of sounds was completely new and un­ familiar back then, offering another di­ mension to the music experience. Puccini succeeded with a refinement that makes us marvel and that demon­ strates the level of accuracy and preci­ sion at which he worked. Every nuance is exactly calculated, and a rich network of clues and semantic levels spans the entire evening. When looking more clo­ sely through this score, we see not only a brilliant melodist, which Puccini un­ questionably was, but also an artful and – I repeat – brilliant craftsman who did not rely on the effect of simple ideas, but furnished his works with the greatest possible compositional depth of focus.

39

Following pages: LUDOVIC TÉZIER as SCARPIA




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TOSCA SEASON 2023 / 24 Publisher WIENER STAATSOPER GMBH, Opernring 2, 1010 Vienna General Director DR. BOGDAN ROŠČIĆ Music Director PHILIPPE JORDAN Administrative Director DR. PETRA BOHUSLAV General editors SERGIO MORABITO, ANDREAS LÁNG & OLIVER LÁNG Design & concept EXEX Layout & typesetting MIWA MEUSBURGER Image concept: MARTIN CONRADS, BERLIN (Cover) Printed by PRINT ALLIANCE HAV PRODUKTIONS GMBH, BAD VÖSLAU ARTICLE ORIGINATION / Original articles: Oliver Láng: Synopsis (English translation by Steven Scheschareg), Too Much and Too Lit­t le Drama – Silvia Kargl: Margarete Wallmann – Jendrik Springer: The sound of the undead Scarpia. Reprinted articles: Arnold Jacobshagen: Puccini and Ve­ rismo (abridged). Reprinted articles from the Wiener Staatsoper Tosca programme booklet, 1993: Chronology for Tosca – Herbert Rosendorfer: La Tosca between Napoleon and Puccini. English translations (except Synopsis): Andrew Smith. IMAGES: Cover image: Flocks of starlings fly over Rome, Filippo Monteforte/AFP via Getty Images – Peter Mayr (p. 2/3) – Michael Pöhn / Wiener Staatsoper GmbH (p. 8/9, 14, 19, 22/23, 28/29, 32, 40/41) Reproduction only with approval of Wiener Staatsoper GmbH / Dramaturgy. Abbreviations are not marked. Holders of rights who were unavailable regarding retrospect compensation are requested to make contact.



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