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.
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?
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
- 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