Libretto Home Next >
Before the Curtain Goes Up
An Introduction to Tosca

Performers prepare to appear on stage.

Act One Synopsis

The Church of Sant'Andrea della Valle

Angelotti, an escaped political prisoner, takes refuge in a side chapel of the church of Sant'Andrea della Valle in Rome. An elderly sacristan comes to tidy up, followed by Cavaradossi, a painter, who is at work on a portrait of the Madonna. Cavaradossi compares his Madonna's blonde-haired, blue-eyed charm with the dark beauty of his lover, the famous singer Floria Tosca ("Recondita armonia").

Angelotti emerges from hiding to find Cavaradossi, his political ally, who promises to help his friend escape from Rome. Angelotti hides again at the sound of Tosca's voice from outside. Tosca jealously demands to know why the door was locked. Cavaradossi reassures her, and they join in a passionate duet ("Non la sospiri").

Once Tosca has gone, Angelotti reappears and he and Cavaradossi plan his flight. A cannon shot from the Castel Sant'Angelo announces the discovery of Angelotti's escape. They exit.

The sacristan enters followed by clerics and choir boys, all excited by rumors of Bonaparte's defeat ("Tutta qui la cantoria"). Baron Scarpia, the chief of police, arrives with his henchman Spoletta in search of the escaped prisoner.

Tosca returns, and Scarpia plays upon Tosca's jealousy in hopes of discovering Angelotti's whereabouts ("Tosca divina"). When she leaves to seek her lover, Scarpia has her followed. As the crowd intones the "Te Deum," Scarpia vows to bring Cavaradossi to the gallows and Tosca into his arms ("Va, Tosca! Nel tuo cuor s'annida Scarpia").