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Quick announcement that this will be the last update for this week. Starting next week, we will be shifting our schedule to three times a week.
Thank you for reading (and listening),
Today we’re listening to…
“E lucevan le stelle” the tenor aria from Act III of the Italian opera Tosca by Giacomo Puccini. First performed on January 14, 1900 in Rome, this aria is sung by the character Mario Cavaradossi (kah-vah-rah-DOS-see), a painter in love with the singer Tosca, while he waits to be executed. I’ve chosen to profile a recording of Luciano Pavarotti here but there are so many wonderful working tenors today that can sing this role including Jonas Kaufmann and Piotr Beczala.
The beauty of this music speaks for itself—Puccini’s use of the orchestra as a means of telling the story is unmatched. But it’s the desperation and deep sense of regret in Cavaradossi’s voice that gets me every time. His heart is out on display here.
🎧 Listen here (3 minute listen):
Tosca is pretty much the perfect opera and one of the most accessible ones for those that are new to opera. It’s about obsession, sex, murder, suicide—all of them! Cavaradossi and Tosca are falling for each other. Every so often, the two of them go for a weekend together at Cavaradossi’s villa outside of Rome. Meanwhile, Scarpia (SKAR-pee-ah), the police chief, has also fallen for Tosca and the conflicts between the two men over Tosca end up destroying all three of them.
In this aria, Cavaradossi has bribed the jailer to take a letter to Tosca (TOSS-kah). The jailer has left him alone to write but he stops writing, as his mind begins to fill with memories of Tosca.
My dream of love is now dispelled forever.
I lived uncaring and now I die despairing!
Alas I die despairing!
And never was life so dear to me, no never,
So dear, no never!
The other well-known aria from this short two hour opera is called “Vissi d’arte” and yet it almost did not make it into the final version of the score as Puccini felt it stalled the action in the scene. You will hear about this aria from Act II in a future update, but here is Maria Callas as Tosca, pouring out her heart out as usual!
Giacomo Puccini (1858 - 1924) was one of the most famous Italian opera composers (after Verdi, of course!) He wrote 16 operas, most of which are still performed today including include Tosca, La bohème, Madama Butterfly, and Turandot.
Puccini set each act of Tosca in a very specific location, all of which you can visit today: the Sant’Andrea della Valle church in Rome, the Palazzo Farnese, and the Castel Sant’ Angelo.
Thank you for listening,