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Lyric Libations: TOSCA

Love. Jealousy. Revolution. Death. It all can be found in Puccini's Tosca (at Lyric January 24 through March 14). Three characters-the rebel, the diva, and the villain-are caught a game of cat-and-mouse with deadly consequences. Non-stop drama could require a cocktail (or three) to unwind. Pick your favorite!

Love. Jealousy. Revolution. Death. It all can be found in Puccini's Tosca (at Lyric January 24 through March 14). Three characters—the rebel, the diva, and the villain—are caught a game of cat-and-mouse with deadly consequences. Non-stop drama could require a cocktail (or three) to unwind. Pick your favorite!

Vissi d'arte 

Floria Tosca lives only for art and for love—her passionate nature leads her to make some impulsive, and ultimately deadly, decisions. This cocktail pays tribute to her over-the-top personality with sweet agave and spicy jalapeno; blood oranges give it an appropriately crimson color (no stabbing required!).  

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (8 fl ounces) fresh squeezed blood orange juice
  • 2 tbs Agave
  • 4 fl ounces whiskey
  • 1 medium sized jalapeño, chopped, stem removed (about 2 tbs)

In a cocktail shaker, add the blood orange juice, agave and whiskey, stir until combined. Add the jalapenos, replace the shaker cap and shake three times, immediately pour through a strainer into two highball glasses filled with ice, straining out the jalapeños. Discard the jalapeño.  (Recipe from Honest Cooking)

The Rebel Artist 

Mario Cavaradossi is hot-blooded and brash; his love for Tosca is only equaled by his fervent political beliefs. Quench your thirst for justice with this fiery cocktail that combines sweet strawberries with spicy Sriracha.

Ingredients

  • Half of 1 ripe strawberry
  • 1 stalk cilantro, chopped in 3 pieces
  • 2 thin slices cucumber
  • 1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/4 ounce agave nectar
  • 1/8 ounce amaro (I used Averna)
  • 2 ounces tequila
  • 2 drops Sriracha, or more to taste
  • Ice
  • Garnish: 3 thin slices cucumber

Muddle strawberry, cilantro, and two cucumber slices. Add lime juice, agave nectar, amaro, tequila, and Sriracha. Fill shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and double-strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Garnish with remaining cucumber slices. (Recipe from Serious Eats)

Scarpia's Sazerac 

This classic cocktail is as bitter as Scarpia's soul. The strong poison seeps into your veins and can make you susceptible to all kinds of dark insinuations. Those who are easily swayed by their emotions have been warned!

Ingredients

  • 1 sugar cube
  • 2 1/2 ounces rye whisky
  • 2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • absinthe
  • lemon peel

In an Old-Fashioned glass (not a mixing glass; it's part of the ritual), muddle a sugar cube with a few drops of water. Add several small ice cubes and the rye whiskey, the Peychaud's bitters, and the Angostura bitters. Stir well and strain into a second, chilled, Old-Fashioned glass in which you have rolled around a few drops of absinthe until its inside is thoroughly coated, pouring off the excess. Garnish with a twist of lemon peel.  (Recipe from Esquire)

Tosca's Kiss 

This drink is deceptively sweet and naive, but ultimately just as potent as the diva for which it is named. It's the perfect cocktail to sip if you want to forget all of your troubles. Or, for a more sinister use, it truly could be the kiss of death for the sadistic man who is plotting to kill your one true love and take his place in your heart…and your bed.

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 oz Red Vodka
  • 1 tbsp Cointreau
  • 1 tbsp Apricot Brandy

Shake all ingredients well with ice in a cocktail shaker. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. (Recipe from Spiritdrinks.com)

Photo credits:

  • Tatiana Serjan, Brian Jagde, and Evgeny Nikitin in Puccini's Tosca at Lyric Opera of Chicago (credit Todd Rosenberg) 

 

TOSCA: A Lyric Photo History

Gobbi. Tebaldi. Bergonzi. Martins. Tucker. Pavarotti. Domingo. Scotto. Ramey. Morris. Voigt. These are just some of the amazing singers who have appeared in Puccini's Tosca on stage at Lyric. Learn more about the history of his magnificent opera at Lyric before seeing it on stage from January 24 to March 14 with six more stars: Serjan, Jagde, Evgeny Nikitin, He, de León, and Delavan. 

Puccini's Tosca is one of the most dramatic and passionate works in the repertoire—no wonder it's been a Lyric favorite since the company's very first season in 1954. This magnificent opera returns to Chicago from January 24 to March 14 in a new production from acclaimed director John Caird, who dazzled audiences with last season's Parsifal.

Before you come to see the new production, here's a selective look back at the history of this enormously popular opera at Lyric, which has been produced 17 times so far! Just a few of the stars who have appeared in this opera at Lyric are Renata Tebaldi, Tito Gobbi, Richard Tucker, Carlo Bergonzi, Janis Martin, Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo, Grace Bumbry, Renata Scotto, Sherrill Milnes, James Morris, Samuel Ramey, and Deborah Voigt.

1960 

 
Renata Tebaldi and Tito Gobbi in performance (L) and taking a bow (R)

Tosca was produced in the 1954, 1956, and 1957 seasons with productions from directors William Wymetal ('54) and Aldo Mirabella Vassallo ('56 and '57). For the 1960 season, Lyric mounted a production by director Carlo Maestrini that featured three greats in the main roles: Renata Tebaldi as Tosca, Giuseppe di Stefano as Cavaradossi, and Tito Gobbi as Scarpia. For many years, Gobbi truly was Lyric's pre-eminent Scarpia, appearing in the first six productions the company would mount in the 1950s and 60s, and then returning for two more in the 1970s. Tebaldi also appeared as Tosca in the company's 1956 production. Lyric history fun fact: did you know that future general director William Mason (and current general director emeritus) was the Shepherd Boy in the 1954, 1956, and 1957 productions?

1962

 
Régine Crespin and Giuseppe Zampieri (L); Crespin and Tito Gobbi (R)

Tito Gobbi returned as Scarpia in this new production from director Riccardo Moresco, conducted by Carlo Felice Cillario. Giuseppe Zampieri portrayed Cavaradossi with Régine Crespin as Tosca

1964 

 
Tito Gobbi in the famous Te Deum scene (top); Régine Crespin and Richard Tucker (bottom L), Tucker and Gobbi (bottom R)

The Moresco production returned to Lyric, with Tito Gobbi again starring as Scarpia, marking his sixth appearance in the role at Lyric. Bruno Bartoletti conducted in his first year as Lyric's co-artistic director (with Pino Donati). The great tenor Richard Tucker starred as Cavaradossi with Régine Crespin returning as Tosca.

1971 

 
Clockwise from top L: Carlo Bergonzi as Cavaradossi; Janis Martin and Tito Gobbi face off as Tosca and Scarpia; Martin is greeted by Maria Caniglia backstage.

Though Lyric also put on a production of Tosca in 1968, 1971 is a significant year as it was the first season that Lyric would present the James C. Hemphill production, directed by Tito Gobbi and designed by Pier Luigi Pizzi. This production became a company staple, presented a total of six times in the 1970s and 80s. This is the first time that Gobbi both directed and starred as Scarpia at Lyric. Also in this production were two opera greats who passed away in 2014: Carlo Bergonzi as Cavaradossi and Janis Martin as the titular diva. In the candid backstage photo above, Martin is greeted by Maria Caniglia, wife of then co-artistic director Pino Donato and one of the greatest Toscas in the history of the role!

1976

 
Clockwise from top L: Luciano Pavarotti at his most passionate; Cavaradossi (Pavarotti) and Scarpia (Cornell MacNeil) square off; Tosca (Carol Neblett) with Cavaradossi; MacNeil and Neblett as Scarpia and Tosca

The Hemphill production was revived in both 1973 and 1976. The 1976 production featured famed tenor Luciano Pavarotti's only performance of Cavaradossi on Lyric's stage. Carol Neblett and Cornell MacNeil portrayed Tosca and Scarpia, with Tito Gobbi remaining behind the scenes for this production as director.  

1982 

 
Top: Tito Gobbi (center) directs Grace Bumbry and Veriano Luchetti; Bottom: Siegmund Nimsbern and Eva Marton (L) and Grace Bumbry prepares for Tosca's leap (R)

The enduring Hemphill production with Tito Gobbi again directing saw two casts take on this opera, with the above photo illustrating his directing technique. This would be the last time he would direct his signature opera at Lyric. Veriano Luchetti and rising young tenor Plácido Domingo shared the role of Cavaradossi. Grace Bumbry and Eva Marton portrayed the diva; and Ingvar Wixell and Siegmund Nimsgern each played Scarpia.

1987-88 

 
Clockwise from top L: Giuliano Ciannella and Renata Scotto; Sherrill Milnes and Scotto; Ciannella; Milnes in the Te Deum scene

The incomparable Renata Scotto portrayed Tosca in this season's revival of the Hemphill production, this time brought to life with revival director Herbert Kellner following original director Titto Gobbi's death in 1984. Joining Scotto for these productions were Sherrill Milnes and Siegmund Nimsgern as Scarpia with Giuliano Ciannella portraying Cavaradossi.

1993-94 

 
James Morris as Scarpia (L); Elizabeth Byrne and Kristján Jóhannsson (top R); Maria Guleghina and Tom Fox (bottom R)

After more than two decades of presenting the Hemphill production (including yet another revival during the 1989-90 season), Lyric presented a new Tosca directed by Frank  Galati with sets by Tony Walton and costumes by Willa Kim. Bruno Bartoletti conducted a dual cast that included Kristján Jóhannsson and Richard Leech (Cavaradossi), Elizabeth Byrne and Maria Guleghina (Tosca), and James Morris and Tom Fox as Scarpia. Morris was also starring as Wotan in Wagner's Die Walküre that season (part of Lyric's first complete Ring cycle, which was presented as one opera each season with the complete cycle in 1996). This production would also be revived in the 2000-01 season.

2004-05 

 
Clockwise from top L: Carlo Ventre and Doina Dimitriu; Te Deum scene;
Samuel Ramey and Dimitriu; Dimitriu and Neil Shicoff

For the company's 50th season, Tosca was one of the operas programmed that hearkened back to the company's very first season. However, instead of presenting a new production, Lyric reached back in operatic history to an important gem: the Franco Zeffirelli production revived by director John Cox (sets by Renzo Mongiardino and costumes by Marcel Escoffier) first seen in 1964 at London's Royal Opera House starring Maria Callas, who came out of semi-retirement to play Tosca. The performances were also dedicated to the memory of Tito Gobbi. Bruno Bartoletti conducted a cast that included Neil Shicoff and Carlo Ventre as Cavaradossi, Doina Dimitriu (Lyric debut) and Aprile Millo as Tosca, and Samuel Ramey making his role debut as Scarpia. 

2009-10 

 
Top: Deborah Voigt (far L) and Vladimir Galouzine (far R) in the execution scene; Bottom (L-R): James Morris; Voigt and Galouzine; Marco Berti; Lucio Gallo and Violeta Urmana

Lyric again would revive the Zeffirelli production, this time with direction from Garnett Bruce.  Deborah Voigt (Tosca), Vladimir Galouzine (Cavaradossi), and James Morris (Scarpia) starred in September & October. Morris was celebrating the 30th anniversary of his Lyric debut with these performances. In January,  Violeta Urmana, Marco Berti, and Lucio Gallo took over the respective roles.  In addition to dual casts, the conducting duties were split as well with music director Sir Andrew Davis leading the first cast (Voigt/Galouzine/Morris) and Stephen Lord the second (Urmana/Berti/Gallo).

Photo credits:

  • 1960 production credit Nancy Sorenson
  • 1962, 1964, 1971, and 1976 productions credit David H. Fishman
  • 1982 and 1987-88 productions credit Tony Romano
  • 1993-94 production credit Dan Rest
  • 2004-05 production credit Dan Rest & Robert Kusel (Te Deum scene)
  • 2009-10 production credit Dan Rest

 

An Insider's Guide to TOSCA

Puccini's Tosca is opera at its finest, combining a heartbreaking story with achingly beautiful music that puts it on par with the composer's other beloved masterpieces Madama Butterfly and La Bohème. Learn more about this magnificent opera with interviews, audio previews, and more.

 

Puccini's Tosca  is opera at its finest, combining a heartbreaking story with achingly beautiful music that puts it on par with the composer's other beloved masterpieces Madama Butterfly and La Bohème. Learn more about this magnificent opera with interviews, audio previews, and more. 

Tosca, an impulsive opera star, is in love with a rebel artist—but he is hunted by a villainous police chief who will stop at nothing to capture his prey. What price is too high to save the man you love? For more than a hundred years, audiences have watched and listened spellbound as the cat-and-mouse game between diva Tosca and the devious Scarpia plays to its deadly conclusion. 

Lyric Opera presents two dynamic casts to bring this dramatic story to life. Tatiana Serjan (Tosca), Brian Jagde (Cavaradossi), and Evgeny Nikitin (Scarpia) portray this deadly love triangle from January 24 through February 5 and all make their Lyric debuts. Then from February 27 through March 14, Hui HeJorge de León (debut), and Mark Delavan take over the roles of lover, artist, and police chief. Dynamic young conductor Dmitri Jurowski makes his podium debut in this new Lyric coproduction from director John Caird, who dazzled with last season's Parsifal. 

Click here to read the full plot synopsis, director's note, and more
in the complete Tosca program book.

Articles with insights from the cast and creative team

Tosca through Scarpia's Eyes
Mark Delavan, who stars in Tosca as Scarpia for Lyric's second cast February 27 through March 14, gives some of his insights on this villainous character, one that he is able to reinvent each time he performs it. Delavan is certainly an expert, having performed this role more than 100 times around the world. READ MORE 


Opera 101: Q&A with Tosca Assistant Director Shawna Lucey
It takes a village to put together an opera, and one of the most important roles is the assistant director. Shawna Lucey, who is assistant director for Lyric's production of Puccini's Tosca (on stage now through March 14) gives a quick overview of her linchpin role as keeper of the "opera playbook." READ MORE 

See why TOSCA is “as pitch perfect as opera gets”
Lyric's Diamond Anniversary season continues with another acclaimed production; this time, critics are loving the new-to-Chicago production of Puccini's Tosca. It's on stage now through March 14, so act fast! If you're not convinced yet, here are just a few reasons to see this dramatic, passionate blockbuster. READ MORE


Tosca: A Lyric Photo History
Gobbi. Tebaldi. Bergonzi. Martins. Tucker. Pavarotti. Domingo. Scotto. Ramey. Morris. Voigt. These are just some of the amazing singers who have appeared in Puccini's Tosca  on stage at Lyric throughout the company's first 60 years. Learn more about the history of his magnificent opera at Lyric before seeing it on stage from January 24 to March 14. READ MORE

Lyric Libations: Tosca
Puccini's passionate tragedy is so intense that you will definitely need a drink afterwards to calm your nerves. And what better way to imbibe than with this set of four cocktails inspired by the opera? Channel your inner Tosca, Cavaradossi, and Scarpia—or learn how to make the potentially deadly concoction we like to call "Tosca's Kiss." READ MORE

A Tosca of Many Nations
There's no composer in opera more popular worldwide than Puccini, and it's not only in Italy that great Puccini interpreters are produced! Look, for example, at Lyric Opera's Tosca—the two trios of principals and the conductor together represent five different nations. READ MORE

On the Couch: Tosca
Opera divas are intense and dramatic—and perhaps in need of a bit of counseling, especially if you’re the tragic heroine of Puccini’s Tosca. Read notes from her therapist as he tackles Floria Tosca’s—FT for anonymity!—most persistent psychological traumas and provides an interesting alternate ending to the story. READ MORE


Lyric U: Sopranos – how high can you go?
Tosca contains one of the most beautiful and famous arias in the whole soprano repertoire: "Vissi d'arte." This glorious lament describes how the heroine Tosca has lived for art and love, only to have fate turn against her. Lyric's own Anthony Freud, Sir Andrew Davis, and Renée Fleming talk through what distinguishes the soprano voice in opera, with bonus video examples of other great soprano arias on stage at Lyric this season. READ MORE

Lyric U: Baritones in opera
A survey of great baritone roles in opera would not be complete without Scarpia. His Te Deum provides one of the most powerful scenes in all of opera, as the villain sings of his lust and his horrific plan to force Tosca into loving him, all against the backdrop of a prayer. Looking for more great baritone showcases? This Lyric U post highlights some other notable scenes. READ MORE

Patter Up! with Brian Jagde

Tenor Brian Jagde makes his Lyric debut as Cavaradossi in the first cast of Tosca (January 24-February 5). Learn more about his favorite foods, his go-to karaoke song, and his adorable dog Cav. 

 

Tosca Audio Preview

Music director Sir Andrew Davis shares the synopsis and excerpts from Puccini's Tosca. Recordings used by permission of EMI Classics.

Lyric U: Sopranos – how high can you go?

Get to know the soprano voice type with Renée Fleming, Anthony Freud, and Sir Andrew Davis in our latest Lyric U voice series installment. Plus hear examples of great soprano arias from some of the operas still on deck for this season: Anna Bolena, Tosca, Porgy and Bess, and Tannhäuser.

The soprano voice is one of the most recognizable in opera, with many famous arias and indelible images (Brünnhilde in a Viking hat, anyone?) that are immediately recognizable.

But what exactly is a soprano? And what kind of roles does that voice usually portray in opera? In our latest Lyric U video, Lyric's own Anthony Freud, Sir Andrew Davis, and Renée Fleming discuss the soprano with a few key musical excerpts sprinkled throughout.

 

Looking for some outstanding soprano roles at Lyric?  Here are just a few of the great arias featured this season.

Anna Bolena - "Coppia iniqua"

Donizetti's bel canto gem tells the story of Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, and Jane Seymour. Though it takes some historical license, all is forgiven when the singers' vocal fireworks are unleashed. Sondra Radanovsky takes on the role here at Lyric from December 6 through January 16. Here is Anna Netrebko performing "Coppia iniqua" from the Metropolitan Opera's 2011 production:

 

Tosca - "Vissi d'arte"

This season features one of the greatest soprano roles, the diva to end all divas: Tosca. Puccini's gut-wrenching story features a number of incredible musical moments, but none is quite so magical as "Vissi d'arte," Tosca's beautiful aria describing how she's lived for art and love, only to have fate turn against her. This season, you have two chances to hear this wonderful piece interpreted with Tatiana Serjan and Hui He both starring in the new-to-Lyric production from January 24 to March 14.

Here's Sondra Radvanovsky performing the aria in the Metropolitan Opera's production from 2011:

 

Porgy and Bess - "Summertime"

"Summertime" is arguably the most famous aria from Gershwin's Porgy and Bess—and it has become a popular tune outside the opera (here's ample evidence!). The great Kathleen Battle performs the opera's opening aria with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, led by Charles Dutoit:

 

Tannhäuser - "Dich, teure Halle"

Ryan Opera Center alumna Amber Wagner does double-duty this season; in addition to portraying Leonora in Il Trovatore, she comes back in February for Richard Wagner's Tannhäuser, which features some of the composer's most majestic music. If you missed Amber Wagner performing this at Lyric's 60th Anniversary Concert,  here is a historic recording of the incomparable Birgit Nilsson performing Elisabeth's greeting, "Dich, teure Halle":

 

Il Trovatore - "Tacea la notte placida"

Verdi's Il Trovatore is filled with show-stopping numbers, including the Anvil Chorus, but the character of Leonora has a beautiful aria in Act 2 describing the first time she heard the serenade of the troubadour Manrico. Amber Wagner took on the role at Lyric in October and November, and here is Barbara Frittoli in a production from La Scala in 2001:

 

Photo credits:

  • Sondra Radvanovsky in Anna Bolena (credit Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago)
  • Adina Aaron in Porgy and Bess (credit Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago)
  • Tatiana Serjan (credit Todd Rosenberg)
  • Hui He (courtesy Zemsky/Green Artist Managment)
  • Amber Wagner at Lyric's 60th Anniversary Concert (credit Michael Brosilow / Lyric Opera of Chicago)
  • Amber Wagner in Verdi's Il Trovatore (credit Michael Brosilow / Lyric Opera of Chicago)

(Lyric Opera of Chicago does not own copyrights to any of the above videos.)

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