On This Day – Surprising Facts You Didn’t Know About Puccini’s ‘Tosca’

Tosca is one of the most popular operas in the repertoire, but as is the case with all operas, it has a surprising backstory.

Puccini’s “Tosca” had its debut on Jan. 14, 1900. Since then it has been an instant classic, one of the staples of the operatic repertoire. All of the world’s greatest sopranos have taken their respective cracks at the role with Maria Callas, Renata Tebaldi, Leontyne Price and Eva Marton among some of the many popular exponents of the role.

And yet for all of its popularity, there are some interesting tidbits that few know about. Here are things that you did not know about one of the most popular operas in the repertoire.

Puccini didn’t want ‘Vissi d’arte’ in the Final Version

The soprano’s “Vissi d’arte” is not only the most famous piece of music in the entire opera, but one of the most iconic in all of the repertoire. And yet it almost did not make it into the final version of the score as the composer felt that it essentially stalled the action as the tension was reaching fever pitch. Callas is known to have agreed with Puccini’s sentiments and even proposed cutting it.

But out of respect for his soprano, he kept the aria in the opera.

O Dolci Mani Comes From ‘Edgar’

The music for the tenor’s brief aria in the third act is actually borrowed from music he cut from his earlier opera. Giulio Ricordo, his publisher, tried his best to make Puccini rewrite the music, but the composer eventually won the battle and the music remains intact.

There was a mad scene

The original libretto of the opera, written in 1896, showcases a different ending to the opera. Instead of leaping to her death, the heroine goes mad holding her dead lover in her hands and hallucinates that the two are on a gondola. Victorien Sardou, who wrote the play on which the opera is based, heavily opposed this reworking of his ending and Puccini also agreed, to the chagrin of his librettists Giacosa and Illica.

Enrico Caruso Was Passed Over In Debut

The famous tenor had reportedly wanted to take on the role of Cavaradossi in the opera’s premiere but was passed over by Emilio de Marchi, who was more established at the time. Caruso would famously create the role of Dick Johnson in Puccini’s “La Fanciulla del West.”

The First Complete Recording

The first recording of the opera took place in 1918 with Carlo Sabajno conducting the La Scala Orchestra and Chorus. Lya Remondini took on the title role in that recording with Carlo Broccardi and Dario Zani rounding out the cast. Sabajno would go on to make two more recordings of the opera in 1920 and 1929.

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About the Author

David Salazar
Prior to creating OperaWire, DAVID SALAZAR, (Editor-in-Chief) worked as a reporter for Latin Post where he interviewed major opera stars including Placido Domingo, Anna Netrebko, Vittorio Grigolo, Diana Damrau and Rolando Villazon among others. His 2014 interview with opera star Kristine Opolais was cited in a New York Times Review. He also had the opportunity of interviewing numerous Oscar nominees, Golden Globe winners and film industry giants such as Guillermo del Toro, Oscar Isaac and John Leguizamo among others. David holds a Masters in Media Management from Fordham University. During his time at Fordham, he studied abroad at the Jagiellonian University in Poland. He also holds a dual bachelor’s from Hofstra University in Film Production and Journalism.

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