Composers and the Voice, Libretto Analysis 1 – Tosca – part 2 (macrocosmic)

Let’s look at the big structure of the libretto to “Tosca.”  3 Acts.  Why 3 acts?  Why not 2?  Why not 4?

Act 1 – The Church of Sant’ Andrea della Valle – noon

Act 2 – Pazazzo Farnese – that evening

Act 3 – Castel Sant’ Angelo – 4:00 the next morning

What do each of these acts share in common?  What strikes you as notable in the storytelling?  Go!

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2 Responses to Composers and the Voice, Libretto Analysis 1 – Tosca – part 2 (macrocosmic)

  1. Zach Redler says:

    Ha! Yea, Sidney. Cavaradossi is a bit more clumsy than Tosca. Plus marquee people always prefer less letters. 🙂

    Well, I think the fact that all of this craziness goes down in less than 24 hours is pretty important. I mean it’s a pretty drastic escalation of events. Here Cavaradossi was painting one afternoon and by the next morning the guy’s full of led. Not only that, but his crazy horny obsessed “kind of girlfriend” gets him killed and then kills her killer…AND THEN kills herself. I mean, if Tosca’s not a lovable character than who is (come on, she at least puts the crucifix on his body after she stabs him to death). That’s huge. And, honestly, the story makes itself available for Puccini’s huge score to follow it.

    As for the three act structure. I think it works since each is focused around a very specific time and place. It keeps everything in check so that time and space is not lost and the plot can be drawn out as much as it is in tight compartments. I feel like if this were one act and just plowed through, the sense of time may be slightly lost (even though the program notes would tell you everything you need to know before the conductor raises his baton….which is an issue all until itself.), not to mention have breaks for the people to get champagne, talk politics and use the restroom. Same with two or four. As Sidney pointed out, if four, Tosca may be missing from an entire act. And two may as well be one because of the stabbing at the end of Act II.

    I don’t know if this helps or not…just what I’m thinking…

    Can I throw out a question that may have been discussed? If everyone is dead at the end, who is the protagonist? Or antagonist? And what have we just experienced/learned by sitting through this opera?

  2. It’s difficult for me to re-imagine this opera *not* in 3 acts since this is how I know it. Three locations, three different times of the day… Three principal characters, each with their own major aria, each in its own act (location + time of day)… Each act I think is anchored by each principal character’s aria. There are even two sets of three subsidiary characters: the named ones (Angelotti, Spoletta, and Sciarrone); and the unnamed ones (a sacristan, a jailer, and a shepherd boy). The number three seems to be at the core of this opera. (Natch: there are four types of choruses–but perhaps this is the exception that proves the rule.)

    One way to reconceptualize Tosca not in 3 acts is to split the 2nd act into two. There is a possible scene break before Tosca enters in this act. We can speculate that the first part (now “Act 2”) can focus on exploring the tension between Cavaradossi and Scarpia in this act while the second part (now “Act 3”) focuses on Scarpia and Tosca. So:

    Act 1: Cavaradossi and Tosca
    “Act 2”: Cavaradossi and Scarpia
    “Act 3”: Scarpia and Tosca
    Act 4: Cavaradossi and Tosca.

    Oh. I think this opera would now be called “Cavaradossi”–just doesn’t roll of the tongue as well, does it?

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