I’m in a bit of a Tosca mood at the moment. For reasons that aren’t clear to me, I have the Te Deum section in my head, and it won’t go away. There’s just something magnificently evil about Scarpia, and the music really works here…
I love the heavy beats of the orchestra here, somehow underlining Scarpia’s villainy. And the way the choir comes in on the Te Deum, and it looks like a scene from Dante, with Scarpia in hellish black, and the choirs all golden and angelic above. And the look on Scarpia’s face when the choir starts to sing! Magnificent.
Here is a version by Brun Terfel – not staged, alas, but, with an English translation, and gorgeous orchestration.
(You can find a translation of what Scarpia is singing here)
He’s a charming chappie, isn’t he? I especially like the aria in which he explains that sex is no fun if the woman actually likes him. Lovely. Meanwhile, he plots to kill Cavaradossi and his friend Angelotti, and seduce Tosca, Cavaradossi’s lover, starting by torturing Cavaradossi to force Tosca to reveal Angelotti’s whereabouts.
Fortunately – like just about everyone in Puccini – he comes to a sticky end – in this case, at the hands of Maria Callas. (Here she is, singing the big Vissi d’arte aria, if you , In my ideal world, the play would end there, but alas, as you probably intuited, the arrangements for Cavaradossi’s sham execution ‘just like Palmieri’s’ are not quite what Tosca had been led to believe. Cavadarossi is shot, Angelotti has already committed suicide, and Tosca kills herself. The moral of this story? Never be a character in a Puccini opera. Particularly not a soprano, though, as we have seen, even tenors and baritones are not entirely safe…
There’s just something about Puccini that works its hooks into me, and I don’t understand why. I don’t like his plots, I don’t, on the whole, like his characters, and his music doesn’t make sense to me – but somehow, he has a talent for grabbing me and *making* me feel the emotions he wants me to feel. Mostly, these emotions are unpleasant. But I keep going back to listen to Tosca again. Especially the villainous baritone. I don’t like Puccini very much, but my God, he knew his job.