Tosca

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August 2021
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Puccini’s Tosca is an outstanding work in many respects, and the precision and economy with which the composer transforms highly emotional material into sheer musical suspense is unique. Condensed into two hours of music, the fictive action is set at a precise historical juncture and in three historical places in Rome that can still be visited today: the church of Sant’Andrea della Valle, the Palazzo Farnese and Castel Sant’Angelo. With the three main protagonists of his opera — Floria Tosca, Mario Cavaradossi and their ruthless adversary Scarpia — Puccini created iconic characters of interpretative art: for generations, opera lovers have associated legendary performances by their favourite singers with the unforgettable melodies of ‘E lucevan le stelle’, ‘Vissi d’arte’ and the overwhelming strains of ‘Va! Tosca!’ rising against the background of the Te Deum in the finale of Act I. The painter Cavaradossi, whose Republican sympathies lead him to conceal the escaped revolutionary Angelotti, falls into the clutches of Scarpia, the Chief of Police. Scarpia for his part exploits the situation to offer a brutal deal to Cavaradossi’s lover, the famous singer Floria Tosca: if Tosca will surrender herself to his desires he will spare Cavaradossi’s life. In order to save her lover Tosca pretends to agree to his terms… A drama of love, jealousy, sadistic desire and psychological and physical violence unfolds within a field of tension delineated by abuse of power and intrigue, between the poles of art, religion and politics. But it’s the music ‘that drives this dark story forward, repeatedly giving it surprising twists and turns within just a few bars — like an effective film noir soundtrack’, explains director Michael Sturminger. ‘Tosca is about individuals in extreme situations. There’s perhaps no other opera that so precisely and uncompromisingly takes the most intensive human emotions on a continuous rollercoaster ride, with the music drawing the listener in with an irresistible force. At its core, the story of the relationships between the protagonists is inextricably bound up with the story of power and the theme of “the artist versus state repression”; politics functions as leverage for emotional states, and all this is embedded in an evil, politico- religious power play that brutally and cynically sacrifices individuals to the interests of the ruling class.’


For all the opera’s dramatic effect, Puccini never loses sight of his enlightened message: torture, murder, repression are the inevitable consequences of unchecked power and despotism, whether political or religious in nature. The composer spares his audience none of the shocking detail. Only two years before the premiere a massacre had taken place in Milan when one of the king’s generals ordered his troops to open fire on their compatriots, who were demonstrating against rising bread prices, killing 82 of them. Those attending the first performance of Puccini’s opera knew on which side of the political divide to place the figure of Scarpia and how close at hand injustice was.


Universal principles of human behaviour can be recognized from the figures and their conflicts.


‘The protagonists in Tosca occupy historical spaces under the burden of history, as much today as at the time when the opera was written. In being brought into a present-day setting, the archaic power of the work is not nullified by modern banality but seen with contemporary individuals in a new light cast on a familiar classical masterpiece.’

Program and cast

Creative Team


Marco Armiliato - Conductor
Michael Sturminger - Director
Renate Martin, Andreas Donhauser - Sets and Costumes
Urs Schönebaum - Lighting


Cast


Anna Netrebko - Floria Tosca
Yusif Eyvazov - Mario Cavaradossi
Ludovic Tézie -r Il Barone Scarpia
Krzysztof Bączyk - Cesare Angelotti
Matteo Peirone - Sagrestano
Mikeldi Atxalandabaso - Spoletta
Rupert Grössinger - Sciarrone


Ensembles


Salzburger Festspiele und Theater Kinderchor
Wolfgang Götz - Chorus Master
Concert Association of the Vienna State Opera Chorus
Ernst Raffelsberger - Chorus Master
Vienna Philharmonic

Großes Festspielhaus

The plans for a Grosses Festspielhaus (Large Festival Hall), where the former archiepiscopal princely stables were located, were drawn up primarily by the architect Clemens Holzmeister; Herbert von Karajan also made many suggestions for the building project, in particular regarding the design of the theatre hall. Every effort was made and no expense spared so as to “insert” between the three-centuries-old façade of the former court stables and the Mönchsberg a theatre with an opera stage whose structure and technical equipment would still meet highest international demands after fifty years. Between autumn 1956 and the early summer of 1960, 55,000 cubic metres of rock were blasted away to create the relevant space. The building was largely financed from the state budget and as a result the Republic of Austria is the owner of the Grosses Festspielhaus.

 

The Grosses Festspielhaus was opened on 26 July 1960 with a festive ceremony and the performance of Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss conducted by Herbert von Karajan. Even though the new stage was undoubtedly impressive in its dimensions, voices were raised even then expressing regret that it would hardly be suitable for staging operas by Mozart which require a more intimate setting. The ground plan of the auditorium is almost square, nearly 35 metres long and from the stalls as well as from the circle offers ideal acoustic conditions and sight-lines for 2,179 seats. The iron stage curtain weighs 34 tonnes and in the middle is one metre thick. The ground steel plates were created by Rudolf Hoflehner; the main curtain behind it was designed by Leo Wollner.

 

The décor for the concert hall was renewed in 1993 by Richard Peduzzi. Five bronze doors with handles designed by Toni Schneider-Manzell allow the public access from the Hofstallgasse. The façade is ornamented by a Latin inscription by the Benedictine monk Professor Thomas Michels (Order of St. Benedict):Sacra camenae domus concitis carmine patet quo nos attonitos numen ad auras ferat (The holy house of the muse is open for lovers of the arts, may divine power inspire us and raise us to the heights).

 

Mostly local materials were used for fitting out the Grosses Festspielhaus: the reinforced concrete columns in the entrance foyer were covered with the conglomerate rock removed from the wall of the Mönchsberg; the floor is made of Adnet marble. Low beam lighting in the sloping ceiling and panel dishes made of glass from Murano create a solid lighting design. Two sculptures created by Wander Bertoni in Carrara marble represent music and drama. The four large-scale paintings in the form of crosses on the theme Dreams with the Wrong Solutions, which were bought by the Austrian patron of the arts and collector Karlheinz Essl and made available on loan to the Salzburg Festival, are by the New York painter and sculptor Robert Longo (1993).

 

The interval hall adjoining the entrance foyer is largely based on the original ground plan of the archiepiscopal princely stables. The floor of green serpentine is new and contains mosaics of horses by Kurt Fischer. On the wall is a steel relief by Rudolf Hochlehner entitled Homage to Anton von Webern. Through the arch built by Fischer von Erlach one can look out onto the horse statue and fountain and the Schüttkasten which was acquired by the Salzburg Festival in 1987. A separate access on the left of the interval foyer leads via an escalator and steps to the underground car park for the old town centre of Salzburg.

 

The furnishings for a Patrons’ Lounge on the first floor of the Grosses Festspielhaus were financed by the American patrons of the arts Donald and Jeanne Kahn, who later became major sponsors of the Salzburg Festival. Since 1995 it has served as a reception area for patrons, sponsors as well as their guests and is also used for press conferences and various other functions in connection with the Salzburg Festival.

 

Specifications Grosses Festspielhaus

Stage width: 100 m Stage depth: 25 m

Proscenium width: 30 m

Proscenium height: 9 m

Five lifting podia, 18 x 3 m each; speed max. 0.25 m / sec.; loading capacity 20 tons each

Hydraulic stage machinery (double attachment of ABB)

Gridiron: 155 hoists with a loading capacity of 500 kg each, a third of them hydraulically driven and electronically controlled

Lighting: 825 adjustable electric circuits with a power of over 5000 watts each; digital light console; depot of around 2,000 individual lights

Electroacoustics: sound control board with 16 inputs, 16 main outputs and 4 auxiliary outputs; sockets for loudspeakers and microphones throughout the entire stage and auditorium.

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