I don’t think it’s much of a secret that I love opera. I love my baritones. My very favorite piece is Va, Tosca! Te Deum. I love it. I thought it might fun to compare various baritones doing one of my very favorite operatic pieces.
Scarpia is a difficult role to play. There are some who think that the role is so taxing on the voice that it helped end the vocal career of the greatest of them all, early. All I know is that Sherrill Milnes’ Scarpia was a thing of beauty. I remember one panel during a Met Opera Quiz discussing Scarpia and Milnes. One famous soprano said that she always wanted to see the soprano just let Cavaradossi get what he deserves, and take Scarpia up on his proposition – especially if that Scarpia was Sherrill Milnes. (SIGH)
“…According to the libretto, the action of Tosca occurs in Rome in June 1800. Sardou, in his play, dates it more precisely; La Tosca takes place in the afternoon, evening, and early morning of 17 and 18 June 1800.
Italy had long been divided into a number of small states, with the Pope in Rome ruling the Papal States in central Italy. Following the French Revolution, a French army under Napoleon invaded Italy in 1796, entering Rome almost unopposed on 11 February 1798 and establishing a republic there. This republic was ruled by seven consuls; in the opera this is the former office of Angelotti, whose character may be based on the real-life consul Libero Angelucci In September 1799 the French, who had protected the republic, withdrew from Rome. As they left, troops of the Kingdom of Naples occupied the city.
In May 1800 Napoleon, by then the undisputed leader of France, brought his troops across the Alps to Italy once again. On 14 June his army met the Austrian forces at the Battle of Marengo (near Alessandria). Austrian troops were initially successful; by mid-morning they were in control of the field of battle. Their commander, Michael von Melas, sent this news south towards Rome. However, fresh French troops arrived in late afternoon, and Napoleon attacked the tired Austrians. As Melas retreated in disarray with the remains of his army, he sent a second courier south with the revised message. The Neapolitans abandoned Rome,and the city spent the next fourteen years under French domination….”
The irony is, if you are a Jane Austen fan, and know your history of the Napoleonic Wars, Scarpia was on the side of the Brits! Cavaradossi was not.
This is also where you will get a rant and rave from me about historical authenticity in costuming and production. We know exactly when Tosca took place. It is R – E – G – E – N – C – Y and should be presented as such. Anything else is just plain stupid and foolish.