See all informations
Opéra Bastille - from 04 to 25 June 2021
2h55 with 2 intervals
Language : Italian
Surtitle : French / English
In few words:
Based on the eponymous play by Victorien Sardou, Puccini’s opera brings together all the elements of a melodrama: love, politics, violence and religion. Set against the backdrop of the struggle for Italian independence, Tosca is a tragic tale of thwarted love between a passionate, jealous and impulsive singer and a romantic, idealistic painter who champions civil liberties. In a period unsettled by the Battle of Marengo, which pits Napoléon Bonaparte’s French republican army against the Imperial army of the Holy Roman Empire, the terrible and manipulative chief of police Scarpia bargains with the singer: In exchange for spending one night alone with him, he will free her lover Mario. In order to escape his grasp, she murders him. However he will exact his revenge from beyond the grave. In a landscape reminiscent of Pasolini, the crushing shadow of a cross hovers above everyone, representing colluding political and religious oppression. Through the ubiquitous presence of religious references in both private and public spaces alike, director Pierre Audi’s interpretation skilfully sets out the dramatic lines of the narrative.
- First part 50 mn
- Intermission 25 mn
- Second part 45 mn
- Intermission 30 mn
- Third part 30 mn
Melodramma in three acts (1900)
After Victorien Sardou
Tosca (saison 20/21) - Acte 2 (Ludovic Tézier et Maria Agresta)
Tosca (saison 20/21) - Acte 3 (Michael Fabiano)
Tosca (saison 20/21) - Maria Agresta (Floria Tosca)
Tosca (saison 18.19) - Acte I - Zeljko Lucic Et Choeurs
An analysis of Tosca
© Svetlana Loboff / OnP
"Dance! Sing! 7 minutes at the Paris Opera" - by France Musique
© Eléna Bauer/OnP
Memories of a production
In 2014, Pierre Audi signed a new production of Tosca. Together with set designer Christof Hetzer, he imagined a set with the shadow of a cross hovering above it, thus making the political and dramatic implications of the libretto tangible. Alexandre Gaillard, head of the Set Design Department at the Paris Opera, reveals the genesis of the production's set, which proved to be an adventure worthy of the work.
Alexandre Gaillard is Assistant Head of scenery workshops and Technical Supervisor.
I arrived at the Paris Opera in 2003 in the post of assistant to the supervisor of the scenery design department. In 2007, the head of the scenery workshops asked me to oversee all the technical side, a post I’ve occupied ever since. In this job, I follow the entire process of creating the sets: firstly the initial designs with our artists, then, when the plans are ready, I supervise the construction in collaboration with the heads of the different workshops concerned. My mission is to guarantee that every set fully answers the requirements of the stage directors and scenographers, whilst taking our own constraints into account. This also means sometimes modifying the choices made by scenographers or working with them to reach a compromise.
The set for Tosca underwent several adjustments
between the initial presentation of the drawings and its final realisation at
the time of its creation in 2014. When the drawings were submitted, the design
consisted of just a single cross: in Act I it was on the stage. To show us its position
in Act II, Christof Hetzer took hold of it, put two strings round it and there
it was suspended above his set. To the problems of a cross on the stage were
therefore added the difficulty of suspending it. For us, these problems
required completely different technical solutions prompting us straightaway to
envisage two different crosses. However, the illusion that the cross is the
same before and after the interval remains intact for the audience.
The hanging cross is the one that required most thought. First of all, we reconsidered its shape and dimensions with the scenographer. It required three motors to suspend it and it had to be mobile which provided an additional challenge. We had to consider how to construct a metallic skeleton for the cross as well as the best way of covering it, that is to say, its exterior panels and their decoration. We had to recalculate the dimensions three times before we found the best structural solution: a framework in aluminium tubing reinforced at strategic points with steel elements. Next, we had to find the best solution for the exterior: it was made mostly out of a composite of polystyrene, carbon fibre and resin which allowed for very rigid but also very light panels. The Scenery Workshop had one last challenge to face: making the material as light as possible. When the first samples were shown to the scenographer, the decorative layer weighed 1.5kg per m2. After a series of tests, the decorators managed to reduce the weight by half and still produce the same visual effect. Our combined efforts resulted in an overall weight of 2.7 tons and a maximum of 960kg at the leverage points (the limit was 1 ton per motor). Rarely had a set demanded such an investment on the part of the technical and artistic workshops and the Design Department.
The first time we suspended the cross in the workshop it looked so intimidating that we hardly dared walk underneath it. It’s a marvellous piece of opera scenery in that it is full of paradoxes: it’s a highly monolithic object, the rock-like appearance of its outer covering reinforces the impression of density and contributes to the oppressive quality of its presence on stage, although in fact it was made as light as possible and is largely hollow, composed of emptiness.
I was trained as an
engineer and have a diploma from the Arts & Métiers school. For me, working
at the opera really is “engineering” in the fullest sense of the term. Over and
above technical realism, it requires creativity, ingenuity and perseverance to
go the extra mile and come up with the bright ideas that will allow you to
bring the artist’s vision to life on stage.
Interview by Milena Mc Closkey
Understand the plot in 1 minute
A Pasolinian landscape over which hovers the overwhelming image of a cross, symbol of the collusion between political and religious oppression: Pierre Audi’s reading divests the work of its ceremonial dress and strips bare its perfectly regulated tragic mechanism, the cogwheels of its drama which, from the raising of the curtain to the tragic downfall, operate with pitiless efficiency. With its transition from theatre to opera, Victorien Sardou’s play becomes the very symbol of operatic art. Is that because Tosca portrays a prima donna whose jealousy has weighty consequences for the destiny of her lover? The music overflows the drama to reveal the sensuality of its immortal heroine.
© plainpicture/Anzenberger/Eugenia Maximova
An analysis of Tosca
A conversation with Pierre Audi and Henri Peña-Ruiz
In Tosca, Pierre Audi has chosen to place religion and its complex relationship with political power at the centre of his production: a choice that continues to have an impact today. The director talks to philosopher Henri Peña-Ruiz, a specialist in secularism.
Pierre Audi, when the curtain rises on your Tosca, one is struck by the crucifix looming over the entire stage. How did you come to imagine that monumental cross—a symbol which you use to represent the Church of Sant'Andrea della Valle in Act I, the Palazzo Farnese in Act II and the Castel Saint-Angelo in Act III?
The huge cross is a sign of the importance that religion has in your production – and more specifically, the collusion between religious authority and political power that is personified in the character of Scarpia…
In his opera, Puccini effectively seems to distinguish two aspects of religion: one which falls within the scope of personal faith and hope, and the other which is based on exploiting religion and using it as a tool of domination and oppression. In this way, Scarpia persecutes the republicans with the blessing of the Pope, yet, just before Tosca jumps to her death, she vows to meet him before God, which is a way of dreaming of a religion free from the corruption of political power. Henri Peña-Ruiz, when we were preparing for this interview, you told me that, for you, Puccini’s distinction was fundamental…
Tosca is one of the great heroines of the repertoire. And yet, as a woman, we get the impression that she is the first victim of the collusion between religion and politics...
Henri Peña-Ruiz: Yes, and, to some extent, it’s scarcely surprising that the oppression that Scarpia subjects Tosca to, the threat of rape that he keeps hanging over her, is carried out with the tacit approval of the clerical authorities. When the Church involves itself in society’s mores, it is often to the detriment of women. Think of Molière’s Tartuffe and his famous phrase:
Cover that breast which I may not behold.
Such a sight is harmful to the soul;
for it will beget impure thoughts.
Men endeavour to
exert control over the bodies of women—be it in France, Italy or in Spain—in
societies long marked by patriarchy and sexist domination. From that
perspective, most religions codify such domination by sacralising it and
presenting it as ordained by God. From Molière to Puccini, one of the tasks
artists attributed to themselves was to denounce the hypocrisy of such a
In your production, Tosca doesn’t leap to her death. In a scene which is more fantastical than realistic, she seems to dissolve into the landscape. Is this a way of saving a heroine who has been given a rough ride by Puccini by sparing her from punishment?
Aside from religion, art plays a central role in your production. In the first act, you have chosen to replace the portrait of Mary Magdalene which Cavaradossi paints in the church, with an erotic painting by Bouguereau: Les Oréades, which depicts a group of nymphs fleeing the concupiscent glances of the satyrs…
And yet lip service is paid to the pious: in the reproduction of Bouguereau’s portrait which Cavaradossi is painting, black veils cover the bodies of the nude Oriads…
In recent years, a number of productions have made the headlines by provoking violent reactions from more conservative sections of the public: On the Concept of the Face, Regarding the Son of God by Romeo Castellucci or Golgotha Picnic by Rodrigo Garcia… The issue of censorship, blasphemy, or the confrontation between artists and religious morality is still relevant today. Do you think that the theatre is a favoured venue of emancipation?
Henri Pena Ruiz: That’s a complex question which touches on the very purpose of art! Does art serve another purpose other than itself? Philosophy has often answered no to that question. Art is its own end because it is that wonderful activity by which man expresses a creativity that produces beautiful works that we enjoy for and in themselves. Kant asserts that “art is an endless finality”. Even so, it is clear that this has never stopped artists from taking an emancipating, demystifying, critical position relative to a given historical situation. History has shown us that when human beings are suffering, or demanding and fighting for their liberty, artists cannot remain unmoved. Earlier, I cited Victor Hugo. I could also evoke the films of Bernardo Bertolucci, Ettore Scola and even Arturo Toscanini in the domain of opera... Those are artists I admire.
Would you go so far as to use the word “sacred”?
Pierre Audi: Personally, I find that the notion of sacred is very useful: the form, the setting. That doesn’t mean that I stage masses for the public [laughter], of course, that's not what I mean. For me, the sacred is a form. It is like a circle or a square, a shape inside which I can set up my production. It’s a prism through which I can have a dialogue with the public.
Interviewed by Simon Hatab