Composers and the Voice, Libretto Analysis 1 – Tosca

Big night tonight.  Acting 3 with Kathleen– starting our look at Ibsen’s “Ghosts” and arguing over beat breakdown of a scene.  And then our first foray into libretto analysis.  For this session, and to launch it all, I chose Puccini’s “Tosca.”   We had time to read through the entire libretto around the table, and to begin a rudimentary discussion of the piece.  But let’s use the blog this time to dive deeper into the libretto, and what each of us took away from it.

Many many thoughts and reactions to come soon.  But let’s start with this– most of the C&V fellows were coming to “Tosca” for the first time, so one of my assignments going into the reading was:  Look for something in the libretto that makes you curious to discover how Puccini realized it in music.  Then for our next session, explore how exactly Puccini brought this thing to life in the score.  Perhaps something like exploring how Puccini sets repeated iterations of the same text– i.e. Tosca’s “Ah, ah, Ah!” OR “You murderer!  You murderer!  You murderer!”  Or maybe how he underscores the sometimes vast stage directions, and the time he allows for them.  Maybe exploring all the instances of “real sound” within the opera score.  Anything really that strikes your fancy.

So, fellows, what is it?  What made you most curious tonight in our table read of “Tosca”?  What do you want to examine in the score?

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2 Responses to Composers and the Voice, Libretto Analysis 1 – Tosca

  1. To me this opera seems to be all about the juxtaposition of the sacred and the profane. If it’s not too much overlap with Sidney’s study, I’d like to see if/how any of the musical ideas from the setting of the Latin texts (not just the humongous chorus but the various moments of prayer throughout the opera) and/or other moments of religious iconography are repeated in other places either to play along with or against the action. For example, how about the end of Act II when Tosca places a crucifix on Scarpia’s chest after stabbing him?

  2. I really enjoyed reading through the libretto last night (that was a lot of fun!), and I found it particularly interesting coming after our “beat study” with Kathleen. I have to confess that I had to really restrain myself from directly going to the score and looking at what Puccini did during certain moments. There are quite a few moments I’m curious about, such as the beats which involved multiple characters (Scarpia’s interrogation of Cavaradossi or the end of Act II–the beat that includes Tosca stabbing Scarpia) and moments when there is less text but a lot of stage directions (such as the very end of Act II). I know Tosca’s and Cavaradossi’s arias fairly well, but not Scarpia’s and since I’ve been assigned his role analysis, I thought I might look at the libretto first for moments which might be arias for him (very beginning of Act II as well as toward the end of the same act before—I just looked at moments when he had a lot of uninterrupted text). BUT I think I’ll focus on the end of Act I because I’m really curious about how Puccini handled interpolating the Chorus text in Latin with Scarpia’s which looks like it could have be an aria… So now to look at the score…

    Oh. That’s what he does…

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