Puccini's melodrama about a volatile diva, a sadistic police chief, and an idealistic artist has offended and thrilled audiences for more than a century.
Critics, for their part, have often had problems with Tosca’s rather grungy subject matter, the directness and intensity of its score, and the crowd-pleasing dramatic opportunities it provides for its lead roles. But these same aspects have made Tosca one of a handful of iconic works that seem to represent opera in the public imagination. Tosca’s popularity is further secured by a superb and exhilarating dramatic sweep, a driving score of abundant melody and theatrical shrewdness, and a career-defining title role.
Giacomo Puccini (1858–1924) was immensely popular in his own lifetime, and his mature works remain staples in the repertory of most of the world’s opera companies. His operas are celebrated for their mastery of detail, sensitivity to everyday subjects, copious melody, and economy of expression. Puccini’s librettists for Tosca, Giuseppe Giacosa (1847–1906) and Luigi Illica (1857–1919), also collaborated with him on his two other most enduringly successful operas, La Bohème and Madama Butterfly. Giacosa, a dramatist, was responsible for the stories, and Illica, a poet, worked primarily on the words themselves.