It had been long since I last cried watching an opera. Today the traditional, consistent production of the Royal Opera House (Covent Garden, London) got that effect. It wasn’t a reference performance, but it touched me, and I don’t think there is any higher aim for such a complex show as an opera is.
Illica and Giacosa did a great job with the libretto. The very last sentence in each act is just superb. Deep and tragic, they alone summarize the whole opera, because Tosca is THE tragedy. Nothing comparable to the suffering of Floria, all out of her great love for Mario. But Mario, in the story, isn’t important at all. He’s got two beautiful arias, but he’s only the excuse for Floria to despise Scarpia. She is love, pride, piety and good. He is lust, pretence, double moral and evil:
TOSCA, mi fai dimenticare Iddio
The end of the first act, one of the best moments in opera history, ALWAYS gives me goosebumps. Scarpia sings his deepest lust for Floria while the whole city praises God, and he fails to do so because his vilest instincts possess him. He is the conservative power, always so close to religion, that gives him all the fear he needs to control the ignorant people. And he has to pretend he believes, so he fools himself, he takes all the external signs of religion, but stays a monster. “Tosca, you make me forget God”.
E avanti a lui tremava tutta Roma
Floria Tosca. The woman. The passion. The lover. The assassin. She kills for love, to preserve her integrity for Mario after saving him. She has suffered, not only for her beloved’s torment, for betraying his ideals, but also because she doesn’t understand what she did wrong. And after killing, she feels pity, but also pride, because the lioness in her feels the strongest woman in the world, saving not only her and Mario’s life, but many other lives that Scarpia won’t be able to take anymore. “And all of Rome shivered in his presence”.
SCARPIA, avanti a Dio!
This is the supreme ending. She is totally desperate -as much as to self-condemn to an eternity in hell, by killing herself. What meaning can life have if Mario won’t caress her again? What use is all that praying, if all the good she did is repaid with the biggest pain, with losing her love? Tosca doesn’t doubt it. She killed for love, she’ll do it again, and although she still hopes she can get saved by the Virgin, even if she gets condemned, her faith gives her the satisfaction of thinking that Scarpia will suffer far more than her. “Scarpia, (we’ll meet) in front of God!”.
These three sentences made me think of my country, of the double morality of many conservative people who go to church every weekend, who are friends with bishops and cardinals, yet don't flinch when making the poorest suffer and struggle -while they are on holidays. And yes, I’m especially thinking of the Popular Party, with all its corruption scandals and the relationship they still have with the Catholic church in Spain. Today I cried for rage, thinking that they deserve that their God exists, because what they do with people’s fear, with people’s money, with people’s lives… they can’t have any possible forgiveness. Tonight I’ll pray to God to be fair and pay them as they deserve. “Popular Party, in front of God!”
Ruggero Raimondi as Scarpia in the 2006 production of Verona’s Arena.