Watching and listening to Tosca, you might catch yourself wondering about the opera’s redeeming values but surely it has plenty. There is the music, for one thing –as passionate and openly beautiful as anything…
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Nevertheless; those musical references to objects, persons, or ideas are not developed on a Wagnerian scale and are not certainly woven into symphonic web. Puccini’s musical motives serve as a narrator and provide information a character’s unexpressed thoughts, recollections, or recall. In Act 1 Tosca and Cavaradossi’s plan their rendezvous that evening, but Cavaradossi’s thoughts are revealed when Angelotti’s fugitive motive is heard. Likewise, Scarpia’s interrogation of Cavaradossi is punctuated by the motif connoting the well: Cavaradossi refuses to mention the well, but the music reveals that he is thinking about it (Puccini 21)
Tosca begins on an imposing, quasi-tragic note, much darker than the opening pages of Puccini’s earlier operas. However the composer takes care to introduce the Sacristan, a basso buffo, for comic relief. Puccini was always very careful to include well defined minor characters. The Sacristan’s banter with Mario gradually leads to the aria “Recondita armonia”. This piece requires vocal intensity and extension, together with depth of interpretation from the tenor, and is enriched by the Sacristan’s counter-melody (21).
A nearly comic interlude features the sacristan and the chorus, creating an overall cheerful tone. This is immediately interrupted with the arrival of Scarpia, as the orchestra once more becomes deep and obscure, but with energy and power this time conveying the overall power held by the police chief. Every accent and work of Scarpia is underscored by Puccini to depict a character with the depth of evil comparable perhaps only to Iago in Verdi’s Otello.The darkness of the orchestra continues throughout the scene of the search of the church. Upon Tosca’s sudden arrival in the cathedral, the sinister nature of the music is toned down significantly as Scarpia acts politely towards her. However, as Scarpia plays upon Tosca’s jealousy, the music resumes
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