A night at the opera

Dog walked, hair washed, moustache and eyebrows plucked (thank you Jamie for installing magnifying mirror so that I could see what a fright has been walking around these last few weeks!), long chiffon dress purchased and off we drove to our local petrol station.  This was our meeting point for the minibus organised by Amici della Musica some months ago, to take us to Rome for a production of Tosca to be held in the ruins of the Baths of Caracalla.  Like most petrol stations here, there is also a small bar attached and we waited in air-conditioned comfort, sipping a chilled chinotto for the rest of our group to arrive.

We were 20 in all and after picking up a few others in neighbouring villages we were soon on the motorway, the Autostrada del Sole, and on our way to Rome. Even though it was Saturday wee hit the inevitable traffic jams once we reached the city but our driver went around the back streets to avoid the worst.  These beautiful avenues were lined with turn of the century palazzi and mansion flats, their lush gardens and then, mixed in suddenly you come across an enormous Roman archway or section of wall and some tumbled down columns.  Shame that so much is scarred and you feel as though you’ve been given the visual equivalent of a kick in the gut by the graffiti that is a blight from the moment you leave the motorway.  Saddest of all is the tagging on the lower walls of these beautiful classical buildings, and monuments, often on the marble. With no artistic merit or skill, if it even could be justified, these morons need to get a life to be remembered for rather than inane scribbling of their names. OK rant over.

We arrived at the ruins of the Baths of Caracalla by around 7:30 so it was just getting dark.  A huge crowd were already winding their way through the grounds and the towering walls of the ruin.  This must have been a spectacular place in Ancient Rome and quite a feat of building and engineering skill.  You could hear every language spoken as we headed to the bar, groups of tourists, friends, couples, and the extra glamorous beautiful people of Rome, oh and of course us.  A glass of prosecco and we were ready to take our seats.  Good tickets too, although they were higher up the staging we were dead centre of the stage and so the sound quality was really good.  We had to put up with the odd airplane from nearby Fiumicino airport and a car alarm but the cicadas were very well behaved and as soon as the lights went down they stopped their chorus.

The role of Tosca was being sung by a soprano and she gave a wonderful performance as did the rest of the cast.  You can skip this next bit if you know the story but for those who are interested, this is it, briefly.

Act 1

On 17th June, 1800, Rome is ruled by fear, that is, republicanism collapses, and shifts to royalism. Scarpia, general of the secret police, on the side of royalism continuously commits many republicans to prison. One of the republicans, Angelotti, succeeds in breaking out of prison, and rushes into the church of Sant’ Andrea della Valle. In the church, he meets up with another republican, Cavaradossi. Cavaradossi harbors Angelotti in his secret hideout.

After the two left the church, Scarpia who gives chase to Angelotti enters the church. Scarpia can’t find Angelotti, but meets Tosca there. She is the singer, and Cavaradossi’s lover. Scarpia tricks Tosca into going to Cavaradossi’s house, and has his subordinates follow her.

Act 2

In the Farnese Palace, Scarpia receives word that his subordinates can’t find Angelotti, but have arrested Cavaradossi. Scarpia tortures Cavaradossi, but Cavaradossi doesn’t confess Angelotti’s whereabouts. Scarpia calls Tosca, and shows her her lover’s tortured state. Tosca gives up the route to the secret hideout to Scarpia.

Then, word comes that Napoleon has won the Battle of Marengo, that is, a defeat for royalism. Cavaradossi exclaims with delight. Scarpia is furious with him, and condemns Cavaradossi to death.

Tosca begs Scarpia to save her lover’s life. Scarpia demands that Tosca yield herself to him in exchange for her lover’s life. As Scarpia goes to touch Tosca, she stabs him to death with a knife from the table.

Act 3

Tosca runs to Cavaradossi who is confined to the prison at the castle of Sant’Angelo. But, the firing squad carry out their orders to shoot Cavaradossi. When Scarpia’s subordinates rush to arrest Tosca for Scarpia’s murder, she kills herself by leaping from the castle.

Not the jolliest of stories but lots of lovely arias.  We got back to the coach and arrived back home at gone 3 in the morning, but it was worth it.


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