Monday, September 14, 2009

Dress Rehearsal of Tosca at the Metropolitan Opera this Thursday

“Tosca combines Puccini’s glorious musical inspiration with the melodramatic vitality of one of the great Hitchcock films,” says Music Director James Levine. Karita Mattila, who sings the title role for the first time at the Met. Luc Bondy, acclaimed for his imaginative theater and opera productions, directs. Marcelo Álvarez and Juha Uusitalo open as Cavaradossi and Scarpia, with Jonas Kaufmann, Marcello Giordani, and Bryn Terfel stepping in for later performances. - courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera website

I was excited to read that the Metropolitan Opera is continuing the tradition of free tickets to select dress rehearsals. They gave away 3,000 tickets to the dress rehearsal of Tosca at noon last Sunday. Though we're not knowledgeable about opera, R and I lined up at 9 am and left with two tickets each.

The dress rehearsal of Tosca sounds like what R calls "a real New York experience". The line on Sunday morning was an experience in itself. There were already about a hundred people ahead of me when I lined up at 9 am. The audience was a good mix of all types of people: different ages, nationalities, and types. Some were quite glamorous and many were comfortably dressed. Many came prepared with chairs, newspapers, and coffee. While a few thick skinned types cut in line, for the most part people were considerate for the three hours or so that we stayed under direct sun. Towards the last thirty minutes, we would smile at each other.

I like to think that my experience with opera is just beginning. My family isn't musically inclined. I've only watched two full performances. First when my grandparents took us to watch an international group perform Carmen at the Cultural Center of the Philippines when I was thirteen. I enjoyed the costumes and spending a special evening with my grandfather, but I the whole time felt a bit guilty that I didn't understand or appreciate the music more. I had my second taste of opera my first year in New York when my uncle Tony and his partner came to New York for Anthony Minghella's production of Madame Butterfly at the Met. My uncle wanted me to see it for myself and treated me to the show. I was worried that the ticket would be wasted on me, but I loved it. The costumes, the stage set, the Met were amazing. And unlike the first opera that I'd seen, there were subtitles! Each seat at the Met has a small screen of sorts with subtitles, that allows you to read and watch the opera simultaneously.

Madame Butterfly's story is very accessible, so it was the perfect choice for me. Tosca sounds fascinating as well.

R & I had planned to take an aunt to the dress rehearsal, but she can't make it. I have two extra tickets that I'd like to give to someone who will use them and enjoy the show. The dress rehearsal will be at 11 am this Thursday, Sept 17. The doors open at 10:30 am. If you know that you can make it and would like the tickets, please send me an email at gaby317nyc at gmail dot com with your contact details and when you can pick up the tickets. I'll email the recipient of the tickets directly but if you don't hear from me please assume that the tickets have been given to someone else.

Here's the synopsis of Tosca, courtesy of the Met website:

Composer: Giacomo Puccini

Libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica, based on the play La Tosca by Victorien Sardou
World premiere: Rome, Teatro Costanzi, January 14, 1900

Act I
Rome, 1800. Cesare Angelotti, an escaped political prisoner, rushes into a church to hide in one of the chapels. Once he has disappeared, a sacristan enters and then the painter Mario Cavaradossi, who sets to work on his portrait of Mary Magdalene. The painting has been inspired by the Marchesa Attavanti, whom Cavaradossi has seen in the church but does not know. While he works, he compares the dark-haired beauty of his lover, the singer Floria Tosca, to that of the blonde Marchesa Attavanti (“Recondita armonia”). Angelotti, a member of the former Bonapartiste government, ventures out and is recognized by Cavaradossi. The painter gives him food and hurries him back into the chapel as Tosca is heard calling from outside. Suspicious, she jealously questions Cavaradossi, then reminds him of their rendezvous that evening at his villa. Suddenly recognizing the Marchesa Attavanti in the painting, she accuses him of being unfaithful, but he assures her of his love. When Tosca has left, Angelotti emerges from the chapel. A cannon signals that the police have discovered the escape, and he and Cavaradossi flee to the painter’s villa. The sacristan enters with choirboys who are preparing to sing in a Te Deum that day celebrating a victory against Napoleon. Their excitement is silenced by the arrival of Baron Scarpia, chief of the secret police, who is searching for Angelotti. When Tosca comes back looking for Cavaradossi, Scarpia shows her a fan with the Attavanti crest that he has just found. Seemingly finding her suspicions confirmed, Tosca bursts into tears. She vows vengeance and leaves as the church fills with worshipers. Scarpia sends his men to follow her to Cavaradossi, with whom he thinks Angelotti is hiding (“Tre sbirri… Una carozza…”). While the congregation sings the Te Deum, Scarpia declares that he will bend Tosca to his will.

Act II
Alone in his palace, the Palazzo Farnese, Scarpia sadistically anticipates the pleasure of having Tosca in his power (“Ha più forte sapore”). The spy Spoletta arrives, explaining that he was unable to find Angelotti. Instead he brings in Cavaradossi. While Scarpia interrogates the painter, Tosca is heard singing at a royal gala in the same building. Scarpia sends for her and she enters just as Cavaradossi is being taken away to be tortured. Frightened by Scarpia’s questions and Cavaradossi’s screams, Tosca reveals Angelotti’s hiding place. Cavaradossi is carried in, hurt and dazed. Realizing what has happened, he angrily confronts Tosca, when the officer Sciarrone rushes in to announce that, in a surprise, Napoleon has won the Battle of Marengo, a defeat for Scarpia’s side. Cavaradossi shouts out his defiance of tyranny and is dragged off to be executed. Scarpia, calmly resuming his supper, suggests to Tosca that he would let Cavaradossi go free if she’d give herself to him. Fighting off his advances, she calls on God and declares that she has dedicated her life to art and love (“Vissi d’arte”). Scarpia insists, when Spoletta interrupts: faced with capture, Angelotti has killed himself. Tosca, now forced to give in or lose her lover, agrees to Scarpia’s proposition. The baron seemingly orders a mock execution for Cavaradossi, after which he is to be freed. Spoletta leaves. As soon as Scarpia has written a safe-conduct for the lovers, Tosca kills him with a knife she had found earlier on the table. Wrenching the document from his hand, she quietly leaves the room.

At dawn, Cavaradossi awaits execution at the Castel Sant’Angelo. He bribes the jailer to deliver a farewell letter to Tosca. Overcome with memories of love, he gives in to his despair (“E lucevan le stelle”). Tosca enters. She explains to him what has happened and the two imagine their future in freedom. As the firing squad appears, Tosca instructs Cavaradossi how to fake his death convincingly, then hides. The soldiers fire and depart. Tosca urges Cavaradossi to hurry, but when he doesn’t move, she realizes that Scarpia has betrayed her and that the bullets were real. Spoletta rushes in to arrest Tosca for murder. She cries out to Scarpia and leaps from the battlement.

The new production of Tosca opens on September 21, starring Karita Mattila in the title role and conducted by Music Director James Levine. Luc Bondy, one of Europe’s most acclaimed theater directors, makes his Met debut. Tosca is a co-production of the Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alla Scala, Milan, and Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich.

Read an interview of Music Director James Levin, Theater Director Luc Bondy and Karita Mattila's on the Metropolitan Opera website at


  1. You are so lucky!! I would love to go, but I live in LA. I'm a huge opera fan. Have fun and tell us how you liked it!

  2. Hi Gaby, I have given you an award so please stop by when you get a chance.

    Have a great week and happy reading!