Tosca: A Beginner’s Guide – Act I

(Courtesy of Classic FM)

Curtain up

The curtain goes up and we see escaped prisoner and former Consul of the Roman Republic Cesare Angelotti running into Attavanti private chapel and hides. Soon after, a Sacristan (basically a caretaker) arrives and begins to clean the place. It’s all a bit mysterious at this point…

Cavaradossi1. Mario Cavaradossi enters

But then a painter, Mario Cavaradossi, arrives to continue his painting of Mary Magdalene. Before long, he’s belting out a classic Puccini aria about how his brown-haired girlfriend, Floria Tosca (a singer), and the blonde in his painting differ – ‘Recondita Armonia’. The Sacristan has a bit of a grumble about it and wanders off.


Cavaradossi_Sacristan2. Angelotti reveals himself

Angelotti then reveals himself after being hidden. It turns out that Cavaradossi is an old friend (convenient, that) and Angelotti begins telling him about his travails – he is being pursued by the chief of police, Baron Scarpia, so Cavaradossi agrees to help him out that night. Before they can do anything, we hear Tosca’s voice soaring out to Cavaradossi. She enters, and Angelotti hides again.


Cavaradossi_Tosca3. Tosca’s suspicion

Tosca is suspicious – she questions her lover, under the impression that he’s been cavorting with another woman, and becomes jealous of the woman in Cavaradossi’s painting. Naturally, Cavaradossi tries to convince her that she’s the only one for him (he’s particularly fond of her eyes, apparently), but he says that he can’t meet her at his villa that night. He doesn’t say why, though…


Angelotti4. Angelotti flees

Tosca makes her exit and Angelotti reappears from hiding. Then, he and Cavaradossi come up with the rather unlikely plan of Angelotti’s escape – he will flee disguised as a woman and hide in the well in Cavaradossi’s garden. Standard stuff. Suddenly, a cannon sounds, signalling that Angelotti’s escape has been discovered and the hunt is on to capture him…


Sacristan5. The Sacristan brings news

As the two leave, the Sacristan reappears to spread the news that Napoleon has been beaten in battle at Marengo, which everyone’s rather pleased about. However, the frivolity ends when chief of police Scarpia enters with his henchmen. He questions the Sacristan and consequently goes after Cavaradossi, believing him to be involved with Angelotti’s escape.




Tosca_Scarpia6. Tosca and Scarpia

Tosca arrives (again – why’s she hanging about in the chapel so much?), only to find Scarpia there. He, being quite the nasty fellow, suggests that her boyfriend is actually in love with the woman in the painting, and she runs off to confront him. Craftily, Scarpia’s men follow her to get to Cavaradossi and Angelotti.


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