Sardou and La Tosca
[Puccini's librettists for Tosca, as in the case of Madama Butterfly a few years later, were Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica. They based their libretto, following the composer's directives, upon Victorien Sardou's La Tosca, written as a star vehicle for the great actress Sarah Bernhardt. The following article concisely compares the original play with the opera. See the article 'Puccini and Tosca' for further information about the libretto. - NMR]
A play such as La Tosca can not be set to music without considerable change. To make an opera libretto, it is always necessary to make many cuts. It takes much longer to sing a line than to say it. Sardou's La Tosca has five acts and twenty-three characters; the opera Tosca was reduced to three acts and nine characters. While the essentials of the story were preserved, much of the detail was lost, including information about the backgrounds of the characters and the history of the period. As a result, some points obscure, for example: how did Angelotti escape in prison garb in full daylight and cross through busy city streets? A study of the play fills in some of the gaps. (The links connect to more detailed information about the various characters.)
Sardou's Act I takes place, during the early afternoon, in Bernini's church of Sant'Andrea degli Gesuit. This is Sant'Andrea of the Quirinale a Jesuit church, in a different part of Rome from Sant'Andrea della Valle.
Angelotti has been hiding in the church all night. When he appears, we learn that Cavaradossi has heard of him, but they have never met. The escapee proceeds to tell his story. His family had hoped for his release when a new Pope was elected, but the recent arrival of Baron Scarpia has put an end to this possibility. His sister, the Marquise Attavanti, has bribed one of his jailers, Trebelli, to let him escape and to give him the key to the family chapel where she has hidden women's clothing, including the fatal fan. He was able to mingle with the workers who were repairing the damage the French had done to the Castel Sant'Angelo and leave with them. Trebelli was to have to collected Angelotti in a carriage during the High Mass and taken him to Frascati where his sister is to meet him, but the jailerdid not appear. Cavaradossi advises him to stay in the church until it reopens later that afternoon. Then he can mix with the crowd and thus escape detection. However, even if captured, he won't be sent to Naples, he has a ring with poison in it so that he can kill himself. As Tosca is heard, he hides.
Sardou's stage directions indicate thatTosca arrives with a long walking stick and a bunch of flowers. In early productions, this costume detail was followed in the opera. She tells Mario she can not meet him that night because she is performing at a gala the Queen of Naples is holding in honor of surrender of Genoa by General Massena. There will be a concert followed by a ball. As she and Mario talk, her maid brings a letter from the composer Paisiello , in which he tells of the supposed victory of the Austrians at Marengo. He is writing a special cantata to mark the occasion and asks that she sing it at the gala that evening. She has to leave immediately to rehearse it.
After she leaves, Angelotti comes out. Because of the special prayers of thanksgiving which are to be said in honor of the 'victory', the church will open early, and they will be able take advantage of this to leave from the city before the gates close, not waiting for Trebelli. However, a single cannon shot announces the prisoners escape has been discovered, and they leave immediately.
When Scarpia and his henchmen appear, we learn that Trebelli has confessed and been executed. As in the opera, the discovery of the fan and the empty food basket are evidence Angelotti has been there. There is no ecclesiastical procession. The act ends as the organ sounds and Scarpia kneels to thank God for his anticipated victory.
ACT II In the Palazzo Farnese
Diego Naselli, the historic Prince or Aragon and Governor of Rome at the time, is present. Scarpia realizes that, if Angelotti escapes, he will be disgraced. He doesn't fear the Queen, but Emma Hamilton, who will have him hanged. He will use the fan, as Iago used the handkerchief in Shakespeare's Othello. After he arouses Floria's jealousy she tries to run to Mario and not sing the cantata, but he prevents her from leaving, telling her she can go after she has sung. Just as its first chords sound, the message is brought about the defeat of General Melas by Napoleon at Marengo. Floria leaves and Scarpia orders the "elegantly dressed" Spoletta to have her followed
ACT III Mario's villa
The torture scene takes place here. Angelotti is found, but he has taken poison. Mario is taken to prison, and Scarpia orders Floria to be taken also.
ACT IV Scarpia's quarters in the Castel Sant'Angelo. His bed is visible.
Scarpia orders Cavaradossi to be hanged before dawn. The corpse of Angelotti shall be hung beside him. Part of his later bargain with Tosca is to use firing squad instead, making it easier to fake the execution. All of Tosca's stage business after she kills Scarpia, much probably suggested by Sarah Bernhardt, are in the play's directions. She is supposed to go to the mirror, fix her hair, blow out the candles, look for the safe-conduct, finally find it in the dead man's hand, lay a crucifix on Scarpia's breast, and set the lighted candles on either side of him. This is very effective theater in itself. When set to music in the opera, the effect is spine-chilling! There is no singing, just the orchestra mirroring Tosca's emotions and movements. Truly, this is drama through music.
Tosca is not present during the 'shooting'. When she discovers Mario's corpse, she is so wrought that she confesses she killed Scarpia before leaping to her death.
The Music of Tosca
Puccini was a composer who had an incredible gift for scene setting, or 'painting a picture' in order to achieve the perfect sonic environment for the dramatic situations provided by his librettists. A brilliant master of orchestration the composer used every color at his disposal in order to get the right effect. Hence, adjectives like 'sparkling', 'bright' and 'colorful' are often used to describe Puccini's operatic scores. In fact the scores became brighter and more brilliant as he evolved compositionally, to the logical conclusion of Turandot with its myriad oriental and exotic elements. Tosca may not be quite so brilliant in comparison, but it certainly has that unmistakable quality of orchestral sheen that we have come to expect from these operas.
Tosca was not well received by the critics at the time of its première, primarily because of the 'sordid', violent nature of its story and for what must have seemed to be the rather 'brutal' music created by Puccini to match the story. But what those critics failed to appreciate was the tightness of the opera's musical structure and what superb control Puccini utilized to tell his story perfectly in every detail. The reason for this 'tightness of structure' can be found in the various compositional techniques that Puccini used consistently throughout his career. Let's take a look at some of those techniques and find examples in the score of Tosca so that you can listen for them in performance.
There are many wonderful examples of 'tone-painting' in Tosca, where the composer describes an emotional state, a scenic setting or a dramatic action through musical means. A wonderful instance of this can be found in the prelude to Act III. Dawn is breaking over Rome and we find ourselves in the confines of the rooftop of the Castel Sant'Angelo on the banks of the Tiber River. It is a pastoral scene at first, providing a bit of a rest from the violence and bloodshed of the preceding act. A shepherd boy passes by and we actually hear the awkward gait of his animals, the clanking of a bell hanging from the neck of his guard dog, and the boy singing a song in country dialect. Slowly we feel a transition in the orchestra, a lightening of color as the sun comes up; and then we hear the bells and chimes of the various churches, convents and monasteries in the area as they call the faithful to morning prayer and mass. Puccini went to great lengths to notate the exact pitches of these bells as he heard them during an early morning visit to the actual Roman location. There is yet another transition as the music actually darkens and thickens in texture. We hear the first statement of the great tune from Act III of this opera, the tenor aria E lucevan le stelle (And the stars were shining), accompanied by the sound of the great bell in the cupola of St. Peter's. This is almost a series of cinematic moments: imagine the camera as it moves from following the shepherd to an aerial shot over the Castel Sant'Angelo overlooking the city, and then to a dark, interior shot as we join the brooding, near-despairing Cavaradossi.
These moments of tone-painting in Puccini are specific and highly detailed. They can be likened to a canvas by a great painter like David, Delacroix or Manet. Transitions between tonal colors or textures are quick but subtle, surrounding the principal characters in the work with a deftly drawn emotional context while at the same time pointing to specific objects, characters or psychological states that are present in the scene. Other moments in the opera come to mind: the entrance of Tosca wherein the pizzicato strings tell us everything we need to know about her state of being at that moment; the dark and violent 'twists' in the basses and lower winds during the torture of Cavaradossi in Act II, drawing an all-too-specific picture of the device being used on him; the lengthy interlude at the end of the same act during which Tosca finds her salvation through the discovery of a knife. These are all moments that exhibit Puccini's supreme mastery of musical description.
We can't truly call what Puccini does with short, suggestive motives anything like a "leitmotif system", certainly not in the Wagnerian sense. But he comes as close as any Italian composer would dare to the German composer's unique method of providing unity to his sprawling works. In Wagner's case, these musical ideas were brief, pithy, powerful nuggets of melody attached to a character, object or psychological state in an opera that would develop musically in direct relationship to the psychological or emotional development of the character through the course of the opera. Therein lies the difference: Puccini's leitmotifs don't develop. They remain static throughout the course of an opera or, at least, don't develop as much as their Wagnerian counterparts.
The most famous example of Puccini's use of any kind of leitmotif is surely the Scarpia motive that dominates the score of Tosca. It is also the easiest motive to identify as it is essentially the first two bars of the opera. The motive is unusual in that it is really not a melody or melodic fragment at all; it is, rather, a series of three sinister-sounding chords blared fortissimo from the full orchestra. Being that this motive is the first thing Puccini wants us to hear as an audience, he's telling us that the dynamic force in this opera entitled Tosca is really Scarpia, the villain. We don't hear the motive again until Scarpia's actual entrance, as he descends upon the poor sacristan in the church of Sant'Andrea della Valle in his search for the escaped prisoner, Angelotti. After this entrance, however, we're never many measures away from the 'Scarpia motive' or a variant of it. Listen, for instance, to the music which accompanies Scarpia's conversation with the sacristan immediately after his explosive entrance. The whole dialogue is underpinned by a development of the motive, those three chords virtually everywhere.
The three-chord idea becomes a descending three-note idea at the very beginning of Act II as we are ushered into Scarpia's apartments in the Palazzo Farnese. Here, in Scarpia's Baroque and sumptuous domestic environment, the brutal chords of the original motive seem out of place (at least until the torture and questioning of Cavaradossi begins!), and transformed, the motive takes on a more elegant nature echoing the outward charm of the man. At the end of the act, as Scarpia lies on the floor of his apartment in a pool of his own blood, his sinister presence is hinted at by the playing of the motive once again, this time slowly by the strings in a low, hollow register. His motive is there again even in the prelude to Act III, just prior to the shepherd's song. Puccini is telling us that even after his death, Scarpia will continue to exert his evil influence on the development of the plot.
One of the most remarkable and most unifying features of Puccini's music is his melodic style, the way he shapes his melodies. It is this aspect of his compositional style which we find most accessible about Puccini's music, most identifiable. Almost all of his melodies are memorable because of the way they are built. And the most memorable of his tunes are conjunct melodies which 1) move in scale-wise motion with consecutive melodic steps; and 2) feature the use of occasional small melodic leaps. Most children's songs and folk melodies are built this way and are, by design, easy to remember. Take, for example, the melody for Mary Had A Little Lamb. This is a perfectly conjunct melody which moves entirely in step-wise motion until the last three syllables of the first half of the tune: "Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, LIT-TLE LAMB". The notes on "LIT-TLE LAMB" are a small leap up; every other melodic motion in the tune is made through consecutive note movement or steps. The tune Three Blind Mice is also conjunct, with mostly step-wise movement, but with considerably more leaping than in Maryâ¦. One may wonder why these simple tunes are so memorable, but it is simply because of this conjunct movement that we find them relatively easy to recall.
Puccini's greatest melodies are built in much the same way. Large leaps or dissonances in the melodic line (not in the harmonies, which are often full of discord) are generally avoided, and step-wise motion with occasional leaps of three, four or five notes becomes the rule. Think, again, of the big tune from Act III of Tosca, the tenor aria E lucevan le stelle. It begins with a melodic leap of four notes, then arcs up and down in step-wise motion, almost outlining a simple scale. And speaking of scales, that is exactly what the voice outlines in the next phrase: a long, achingly beautiful ascending scale. And so it goes, a melody built very simply from leaps of a fourth or fifth, combined with scale-like passages. It seems a dull affair indeed to write about this, or to speak of it. But when you listen to it, realize the formulaic nature of Puccini's gift, and then accept that this tune has always been one of your most beloved memories of the operatic répertoire the genius of it begins to communicate itself to you. Apply this same formula to any other of Puccini's great melodiesâ¦from La bohème, Manon Lescaut, Madama Butterflyâ¦and you begin to wonder how it was possible for this composer to come up with so many staggeringly beautiful melodies by following what is essentially an ancient melodic pattern.
NOTE: The richness of the orchestration is made possible by the many different instruments called for in the score: two flutes and one piccolo, two oboes, English horn, two clarinets, bass clarinet, two bassoons, four horns, three trumpets, four trombones, harp, tympani, Glockenspiel, bells, contrabassoon, tam-tam, celeste, deep bell, organ, organ, cannon and gun shots. In addition there is a banda of flutes, viola, harp, four horns, three trombones, and two small drums.
The action takes place on July 17, 1800, three days after the July 14 Battle of Marengo.
There is no overture or prelude. Three ominous opening bars introduce the Scarpia motif.
ACT I The Church of Sant'Andrea della Valle.
An artist has been at work and his brushes and equipment are scattered about. Angelotti dashes in, out of breath and fearful, having just escaped from the Castel Sant'Angelo. He had been a consul with the short-lived Roman Republic but was made a political prisoner when the control of Rome returned to the Kingdom of Naples. He finds the key to one of the chapels which his sister has left for him and hides as he hears someone approaching. It is the Sacristan, surprised at finding an untouched lunch basket but no painter. As the sacristan kneels to say the Angelus, the artist, Mario Cavaradossi, enters. The Sacristan gazes at the painting and recognizes in the Mary Magdalene of the painting, a lady he has seen praying the church. Mario confesses he used the stranger as a model. He compares her blond, blue-eyed beauty with that of his dark-haired love, the famous singer, Floria Tosca (Recondita armonia Hidden harmony).
After reminding Cavaradossi to lock up, the Sacristan leaves. Angelotti reappears and is delighted to recognize the painter as an old friend. WhenTosca is heard calling through the locked door, Cavaradossi gives Angelotti the basket of food, and he hides once more. Mario admits Tosca. Suspicious because the door was locked and she heard voices, Tosca thinks that there must have been another woman with the painter. When he tries to kiss her, she insists upon laying flowers before a statue of the Madonna and saying a prayer first. When a preoccupied Cavaradossi does not react to her plans for the evening, the annoyed Tosca describes how romantic it will be (Non la sospiri la nostra casetta? Do you not long for our little house?). About to leave, she notices the painting, recognizes the blue-eyed model, and once more suspects Mario of betraying her. He finally convinces Tosca that he loves only her and her black eyes (Qual' occhio al mondo What eyes in the world). He accuses her of being jealous. Admonishing her lover to paint the Magdalene's eyes black, the singer leaves.
The mysterious woman in the painting is actually Angelotti's sister and, as well as the key, she has left women's clothes and a fan for him to use as a disguise. Cavaradossi gives Angelotti the key to his own house and tells him he can hide there, in the well if necessary. When the sound of a gun is heard, announcing the escape of a prisoner has been discovered, the friends rush off together.
The Sacristan enters calling excitedly to the choir boys; there has been a report that Bonaparte has been defeated by the allies in Northern Italy, and a great celebration is being planned. The boys are overjoyed because they will be paid double for the Te Deum they are to sing at a special service.
They are interrupted by the appearance of Baron Scarpia, the chief of police, who orders his men to search the church for the escaped Angelotti. Finding the empty food basket and the embroidered fan belonging to Angelotti's sister, they guess that the prisoner has been there. When Scarpia is told the identity of the painter, he gleefully plots to get Tosca for himself. Once more we hear Tosca calling for her Mario. Scarpia shows her the fan, thus confirming her former suspicions. As people arrive for the service of thanksgiving, Tosca laments her lover's supposed unfaithfulness, and Scarpia feigns pity. When the jealous singer runs off to find Mario, Scarpia instructs his henchman, Spoletta, to follow her. (During the grand religious procession, we hear victory cannon shots, imitated by drums.) Scarpia gloats "Va, Tosca" (Go, Tosca), and cries, "Tosca, mi fai dimenticare Iddio!" (Tosca, you make me forget God!)"
ACT II That evening, Scarpia's quarters in the Palazzo Farnese.
Elsewhere in the palace the Queen of Naples is giving the reception at which Tosca is singing. As he eats a sumptuous meal, Scarpia thinks of his hoped-for capture of Cavaradossi and Angelotti, thus leaving Tosca free for him. (Ha più forte sapore [The violent conquest] has a stronger flavor). Spoletta arrives; he has captured Mario but cannot find Angelotti. From offstage we hear the sounds of the celebratory cantata and Tosca's voice. Cavaradossi is brought in and questioned but he denies any knowledge of the escaped prisoner.
Tosca enters. Mario embraces her, whispering that she should say nothing about what she saw at his house. Scarpia orders the artist to be tortured until he reveals Angelotti's hiding place. On being questioned, Tosca denies knowing anything at first, but upset at hearing Mario's groans under torture, she gives in. She reveals that they can find Angelotti in the well in Mario's garden. Scarpia sends Spoletta to find the escapee. When a bleeding and faint Cavaradossi is brought in, Tosca lies, telling him she has said nothing. Suddenly news is brought that Napoleon has defeated the Allies at the battle of Marengo after all, a blow for Scarpia's side. Cavaradossi's strength returns and he exults in the victory (Vittoria!). In spite of Tosca's pleas, Scarpia orders Mario executed for his defiance.
Left alone with the police chief, Tosca demands the price of Mario's freedom. Scarpia does not want money he wants Tosca, otherwise Mario will die. When news is brought that Angelotti had killed himself before the police reached him, Tosca finally relents. Scarpia instructs Spoletta to change Cavaradossi's sentence from hanging to shooting, "as we did with Palmieri", making Tosca think that he means to fake the execution. Tosca asks if she can take the news to the painter herself and asks for a safe-conduct to leave Rome. As Scarpia writes, Tosca spies a knife on the table and hides it behind her. He tries to embrace her, but she stabs him crying, "Questo è il bacio di Tosca!" (This is Tosca's kiss!). Scarpia dies, and she takes the safe-conduct from his hand exulting, "E avanti a lui tremava tutta Roma!" (And before him all Rome trembled). Tosca lights two candles, places one on either side of the body, lays a crucifix on Scarpia's chest and leaves.
ACT III An upper courtyard at the Castel Sant'Angelo.
It is near dawn. A shepherd boy is heard singing a sad love song. Cavaradossi is led to a cell and asks for paper to write a last letter. He starts to write but is overcome by his memories (E lucevan le stelle And the stars shown). Tosca is brought in, shows Mario the safe-conduct, and describes the murder of Scarpia. Cavaradossi wonders that such a gentle creature could perform such a terrible deed (O dolci mani Oh soft hands). Tosca explains the execution plan and instructs him on how to 'die' . In a passionate duet, they sing of their future together.
The firing squad arrives, performs the 'fake' execution, and departs. However, Scarpia has had his revenge from the grave. The bullets were real. Just as Tosca realizes Mario is dead, voices are heard shouting the news of Scarpia's murder. Men rush onto the stage but, before they can apprehend her, Tosca jumps from the parapet exclaiming, "O Scarpia, avanti a Dio!" (Oh Scarpia, [we will meet] before God).
The Battle of Marengo
One of the interesting aspects of Puccini's Tosca, is that much of the drama is driven by the historical events which surround the action. Prominent in the text is mention of the battle between the French and Austrian forces on the plain of Marengo.
During a daring campaign in 1796-97 the French regained control of northern Italy. In 1799, despite the brilliance of Napoleon's General Massena, he could not overcome the superior numbers, and when General Aleksandr Suvorov arrived with 18,000 Russian troops to support the Austrian army, Napoleon's forces were pushed out of northern Italy once again. Northern Italy was restored to Austria, and Massena retreated to the Rhine River.
In 1799, after Napoleon, then First Consul of France, left what remained of his Eastern forces in Egypt, he faced several obstacles. Chief among these were: the English had control over the Mediterranean Sea; they had effectively blockaded the Atlantic Coast of France; and there was a Russo-Austrian army in northern Italy. More importantly, Napoleon was threatened politically at home. Now that he possessed powers over war and peace, he needed to consolidate his grip on government, and gain a spectacular success in order to calm royalist sentiments in Paris and solidify his position as First Consul.
The fact that Napoleon's General in Germany and Italy, Massena, was able to retain control of Switzerland, gave the First Consul the route he needed to strike against the Austrians. While Massena massed his army to the east around Genoa, Napoleon was assembling a reserve force of approximately 50,000 troops just west of Switzerland
On May 1, Napoleon learned that Massena's forces had been split in two and were now facing a superior force of Austrians under the command of General Michael von Mélas. He sent Massena orders to hold his position in Genoa until May 30, and used the opportunity to begin crossing the mountains into Italy. Mélas continued his campaign against Messena's forces. He wanted to drive the French out of Italy, however, this left him completely unaware of Napoleon's descent upon him from the north.
Napoleon's army crossed the Alps through five separate passes in order to conceal the main body of his forces. As a result, Mélas was unable to identify the French forces as anything more than diversionary troops. On May 19, he learned the truth. The French were descending upon Italy in force! Mélas turned to meet the threat, but was faced with one foreboding question; which of the five approaching armies was the main French force? Against incredible difficulties, Napoleon was crossing with the main French column through the Great St. Bernard Pass.
Napoleon had several alternatives. Mélas had finally discovered his intentions and was in the process of concentrating his forces at Turin. Napoleon could move South to the aid of Massena, or attempt to take Milan, the main Austrian supply base. He chose the latter, and ordering General Lannes forces to the southeast in order to screen his movements, he headed East toward Milan, taking the city on June 2. By sending Lannes's to the south, however, Napoleon had divided his forces in the face of the enemy. This would prove to be a critical mistake which would almost cost him the campaign.
On June 4, Massena surrendered Genoa, and the Austrians moved north to find Lannes's army. Lannes forced the Austrians to retreat, cutting off all of Mélas' escape routes to the East. Mélas decided that he would have to face the French army near Alessandria and fight his way out. Napoleon, thinking that Mélas was still trying to elude him, further dispersed his forces in an attempt to find the Austrians. Not knowing that an overwhelming Austrian force lay just on the other side of the Bormida River, he placed himself in a disastrous position.
On June 14, Mélas crossed the Bormida River and attacked, deploying his forces on the Marengo plain. Three hours later, the French, under the command of General Claude Perrin Victor, retreated. Napoleon did not believe that he had met the main Austrian force, and ordered General Desaix, a veteran of Egypt and one of Napoleon's best fighters, to move further Southeast to find Mélas.
With the French on the run, and anxious to reassure the Emperor of a victory, Mélas sent out a number of dispatches saying the French had been defeated (in the opera this is the news that the Sacristan is telling the children's chorus in Act I and is the reason for the celebration at which Tosca is to sing).
Fortunately for Napoleon, Desaix knew that the Austrians were not waiting to the southeast, and as a result, he hesitated when he received Napoleon's orders to march further south. As he was finally preparing his troops to carry out the order, a messenger arrived from the First Consul, "Mélas has attacked me first. For God's sake come if you can!" By the time Desaix arrived, Napoleon had used all of his reserves and the French were on the retreat. Napoleon told Desaix, "The battle is lost." "Yes," Desaix replied, "But there is time to win another."
In a brilliant counterstroke, Desaix turned to meet Mélas head on, and within several hours turned defeat into victory. At the critical moment of the counterattack, Desaix was mortally wounded. Fearing that his death would destroy the morale of his troops, he gave orders that he was not to be moved from the field of battle. His troops were so outraged at the Austrians for having struck down their commander, that they found new courage and drove the Austrians from the field.
It is at this point in the opera, that Sciarrone arrives with the terrible news and informs Scarpia that what they had thought was a victory against Napoleon, was in fact, a defeat, and Cavaradossi convicts himself by shouting "Victory!".
Napoleon could not rejoice. He bore a deep personal loss in General Desaix. In addition, he had endangered the army by dividing his forces and almost lost the campaign. On June 15, Baron von Mélas asked Napoleon for truce terms. The battle had recovered Italy for the French, and stabilized the political climate at home for Napoleon. Marengo also marked the end for the Republic in France. Following the battle, Napoleon sent word to Paris saying, "I hope the French people will be pleased with their Army." Dictatorship was just over the horizon, and with it, greater desires for military glory.
Note: Tosca takes place on June 17, three days after the Battle of Marengo. It took that long for the dispatches to cover the approximately 250 miles from Marengo to Rome.
Sardou set his first act in the church of Sant'Andrea al Quirinale. It was surrounded by empty spaces through which Angelotti could have escaped. Puccini moved it to Sant'Andrea della Valle. This is much closer to the Palazzo Farnese and the Castel Sant'Angelo, but is in a built-up area in where it would have been more difficult for an escaped prisoner to elude notice. Sant'Andrea della Valle is one of the great churches of Rome, the seat of a Cardinal-Prince. Its dome is second in size only to that of St. Peter's. It was built in 1591, on land adjacent to the site of the Pompey's Theatre in which Julius Caesar was killed. Although none are named after the Attavanti family, there are four chapels, one decorated by Michelangelo. However, none of the chapels are closed by a lockable grill, and there is no painting of either Mary Magdalene or the Temptation of Lazarus, such as those on which the fictional Cavaradossi is supposed to be working.
The Palazzo Farnese is admired as the handsomest palace of the high Renaissance in Rome. It was built partly under the direction of Michelangelo for Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, later to become Pope Paul III. In 1731 it passed to the wife of Philippe de Bourbon, grandson of the French King Louis XIV. Their oldest child was given the title of King of the Two Sicilies. In 1757 it passed to Ferdinand IV, husband of Marie Caroline and the palazzo became the seat of Bourbon authority in Rome. Under the French and the short-lived Roman Republic, it was ransacked and looted. When, in 1800, the Bourbons regained control it became the headquarters of Naselli, the Governor of Rome. In Sardou's La Tosca, Scarpia's offices were in the Castel Sant'Angelo, but in the opera his quarters would have been on the top floor of the Palazzo Farnese. In 1874 the palazzo was made the residence of French ambassador to the new Kingdom of Italy, and between 1908 and 1911, it was purchased by French Republic. It is still the site of the French Embassy.
The Castel Sant'Angelo was built between 135 and 139 as a mausoleum for the Emperor Hadrian and his successors. The last burial was in 211, and the ashes were scattered long ago. In 271 Hadrian's Tomb became a defensive work guarding the bridge over the Tiber, and in the fifth century, the mausoleum was converted to a regular fortress. The marble facings and the statues were probably destroyed by the Goths. There has been an angel at the top since 590, when Pope Gregory the Great saw the apparition of an archangel announcing the end of a plague. He erected a marble angel and renamed the fortress as the Castel Sant'Angelo. He built the circular ramp on which one reaches the upper stories today. This had a drawbridge half way up which still existed in 1800.
In the Middle Ages the Castel became the principal place of refuge for popes during attacks on the Vatican. In the fifteenth century it was connected with Vatican by a long corridor, still seen today. When Rome was threatened in 1525, Pope Clement fled to the Castel Sant'Angelo with guard of soldiers and a few favored cardinals, one of whom was pulled up in a basket just before the fortress was closed. During a summer-long siege, Clement, although in luxury, was effectively a prisoner. Finally, in December, he made his escape disguised as a merchant.
The Castel also became a state prison as well as a papal residence, and during the Middle Ages, the people of Rome tried to destroy it as a hated symbol of oppression. Unlike the storming of the French Bastille, they failed; it was just too strong. Luxurious apartments for the popes and their families occupied the whole third floor. The quarters of Sardou's Scarpia may have been in one of them. Among the inhabitants of the castle during the Renaissance, were member of the infamous Borgia family, including the beautiful Lucrezia, her evil brother Cesare, and their father Pope Alexander VI. The Borgia apartments have two square holes in the floor, one reputed to lead to a dungeon, the other to the River Tiber for the disposal of bodies.
As a prison the Castel was not always so bad. We know much about conditions there in the sixteenth century from the artist Benvenuto Cellini (1500-1571). In his autobiography this famous goldsmith and sculptor tells how he was imprisoned for stealing the papal jewels, injured during a brief escape, and then recaptured. (It was usually easy to escape from the Castel.) After giving his parole, he had the run of the place and was able to carry on his profession while incarcerated.
In the eighteenth century, the marble angel was replaced by the present 18 foot high bronze one. Under the French, the statue was painted red, white and blue and a liberty cap was set on its head. The angel is usually part of Tosca sets. It stands on a small terrace set back from the edge of the tower. Tosca is supposed to jump from there into the Tiber River but that is clearly impossible. At that time, 1798-9, one could walk out of prison upon payment of a bribe, and many did. In La Tosca Angelotti's sister is able to bribe the jailor not only to allow her brother to leave the prison, but even to drive him from Rome in a carriage. Such conditions did not last.
Late nineteenth-century tourists were shown, along with the papal apartments and other features, the live political prisoners behind the bars. The Castel remained a prison until 1901 when it was converted to a museum. Mussolini 'restored' the Castel and converted it into a regular tourist attraction. The view from the terrace of this powerful symbol of the combined power of the Church and the State is one of finest in Rome.