Tosca

Puccini's "Torture Opera", as Oskar Bie dubbed it, was based on LA TOSCA, the well received play by Victorien Sardou [1831–1908], which premiered in Paris in 1887 with Sarah Bernhardt in the title role. Puccini attended a performance of the play in Milan during an 1889 tour and found the subject matter interesting, although the Tosca project was to remain dormant for another six years. Puccini's interest in the work grew, doubtless prompted by another viewing of the Sardou play in Florence and by Luigi Illica's work on a TOSCA libretto for composer Alberto Franchetti [1860–1942]. Following a "conspiracy" between Puccini, Illica and Ricordi, the publisher successfully persuaded Franchetti to abandon his TOSCA project and to surrender the scoring rights to Puccini.

As in all other Puccini operas TOSCA amply demonstrates the mutual causality between humane attentiveness and culinary pleasure when the composer's artistic intention becomes the benchmark for interpretations. The outcry and resignation are the two fundamental prerequisites for the human attention paid by Puccini: The empathy reflected in his composition, far from contenting itself with abstract gestures, aims to disturb and transform. The "small things" - Puccini refers to them with modern understatement as his preferred focus of attention – become "large issues", provided that we want this to happen.
In view of the connection between Puccini's choice of subject matter (directly and indirectly inspired by Zola, Hauptmann and Gorki) and his method of composition it is natural that we crown him Verdi's successor and confer on him the badge of "verismo". He is known to have been a great admirer of Wagner and anything but a second-rate imitator. He created a very personal bond with Verdi and Wagner by taking his inspiration from both masters. He took all their harmony refinements and subtleties of instrumentation and managed to detach the voice somewhat from the orchestra, all the while giving it a far more fragmented and melodically sensitive accompagnato in the orchestra than the radical and laconic Verdi ever had. This is also mirrored in the aesthetic theme of Tosca. Puccini's musical statement is as brutal as it is tender, as intelligent as it is sentimental, as precise as it is dreamy. Puccini's watchwords are authenticity, precision of musical detail, social awareness, the poetic sound of the ostensibly mundane, heroism coupled with shrewdness, the contrast between passionate commitment and cold remoteness.

The Chief of Police Scarpia, the singer Floria Tosca and the artist Cavaradossi in their different ways, all insist on their personal freedom to act as they please - Scarpia as a condition of his claim to power, Cavaradossi in his rebellious urge to bring about change and Tosca as an expression of a plain, unlimited love.

At a time of momentous change such attitudes take on an exemplary significance. Depending on how we view Puccini and ourselves today, we can approach TOSCA as a romantic schlocker or as a bad omen for freedom. Whatever our attitude, each of these very different individuals in the triangular relationship pays the ultimate price for his or her actions. Their deaths are not accompanied by a glorious halo marked Redemption; they are bitter, horrific, definitive.

 

Program and cast

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April 2019

Deutsche Oper Berlin

The Deutsche Oper Berlin is an opera company located in the Charlottenburg district of Berlin, Germany. The resident building is the country's second largest opera house and also home to the Berlin State Ballet.

The company's history goes back to the Deutsches Opernhaus built by the then independent city of Charlottenburg—the "richest town of Prussia"—according to plans designed by Heinrich Seeling from 1911. It opened on November 7, 1912 with a performance of Beethoven's Fidelio, conducted by Ignatz Waghalter. After the incorporation of Charlottenburg by the 1920 Greater Berlin Act, the name of the resident building was changed to Städtische Oper (Municipal Opera) in 1925.

Deutsches Opernhaus, 1912
With the Nazi Machtergreifung in 1933, the opera was under control of the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. Minister Joseph Goebbels had the name changed back to Deutsches Opernhaus, competing with the Berlin State Opera in Mitte controlled by his rival, the Prussian minister-president Hermann Göring. In 1935, the building was remodeled by Paul Baumgarten and the seating reduced from 2300 to 2098. Carl Ebert, the pre-World War II general manager, chose to emigrate from Germany rather than endorse the Nazi view of music, and went on to co-found the Glyndebourne opera festival in England. He was replaced by Max von Schillings, who acceded to enact works of "unalloyed German character". Several artists, like the conductor Fritz Stiedry or the singer Alexander Kipnis followed Ebert into emigration. The opera house was destroyed by a RAF air raid on 23 November 1943. Performances continued at the Admiralspalast in Mitte until 1945. Ebert returned as general manager after the war.

After the war, the company in what was now West Berlin used the nearby building of the Theater des Westens until the opera house was rebuilt. The sober design by Fritz Bornemann was completed on 24 September 1961. The opening production was Mozart's Don Giovanni. The new building opened with the current name.

© Günter Karl Bose
© © Günter Karl Bose
© Bettina Stöß
© © Bettina Stöß
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