Course Title: Puccini’s Tosca: Musical, Theatrical, and Social Perspectives
Instructor: Brian Oberlander
Brought to you by Odyssey
October, 2023 - October 05, 2023 (1 Session)
Thursday, 6 PM ET
Virtual via Zoom
COURSE DESCRIPTION: What do the bells of St. Peter’s Basilica, the Battle of Marengo, and legendary French actor Sarah Bernhardt have in common? They all influenced Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca (1900). We set the scene with an overview of Puccini’s operas in the 1890s and the aesthetics of Italian verismo opera. We then explore the libretto’s inspiration in an 1887 French play, La Tosca, that toured Italy with Bernhardt in the title role and Puccini in the audience—ultimately shaping his operatic heroine. As a celebrated public figure making impossible choices in the blood-soaked world of Puccini’s opera, Floria Tosca challenged conceptions of women, power, and public life in turn-of-the-century Italy. We trace these gendered contours in her music, with Maria Callas as our guide, and interpret her harrowing acts of violence through this lens. We also examine the opera’s Napoleonic historical references in light of the social and political instability that surrounded Tosca’s premiere, including bomb threats against the Teatro Costanzi in Rome. We conclude with in-depth discussion of music, libretto, and staging in several iconic scenes—from Baron Scarpia’s dastardly desecration of the Te Deum procession to Floria’s heart-rending aria Vissi d’arte.
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