July 15, 2021

Get to know: Puccini's Tosca

Romance, Heroism, and High Notes

One of opera’s strongest, most independent, most adoring, and most desirable women — is the flamboyant diva Floria Tosca. Giacomo Puccini’s opera has attracted great sopranos for well over a century, because of its heroine, the thrilling music she sings, and her overpowering emotions. The tenor who loves her and the baritone who lusts after her are unforgettable characters, as well. Together they draw audiences into a drama that has never lost its power and excitement, making it a universal favorite.

Lyric's 2021/22 Season will feature a stunning new-to-Chicago production designed by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle

The year is 1800, the city is Rome, and Mario Cavaradossi, a painter and revolutionary, is in love with Tosca. Baron Scarpia, the chief of police, covets Tosca for himself. When a political prisoner (Mario’s ally) escapes from prison, Mario is apprehended for questioning. When he reveals nothing, he’s dragged away for execution. Scarpia makes a bargain with Tosca: if she yields to his advances for one night, he’ll arrange a mock execution. She reluctantly agrees, but then fatally stabs Scarpia before hurrying to the terrace of the Castel Sant’Angelo, where Mario is about to be shot. As for what happens next, you’ll have to come to a performance to find out!

It’s impossible to resist the romance of Mario’s arias, the passion of his duets with Tosca, and above all, the soulfulness and the grandeur that have made her prayer, “Vissi d’arte,” one of the most beloved arias ever written. As for Scarpia, to hear his voice sailing triumphantly above the chorus and orchestra in the Act One finale is to experience opera at its most magnificent!

This season’s Tosca will make Lyric history: for the first time, two Black artists will be onstage together as Tosca and Mario. Michelle Bradley, the velvet-voiced American soprano, will be debuting at Lyric after great successes at such major international houses as those of Vienna, Frankfurt, and Berlin. Russell Thomas, the hugely sought-after American tenor, has thrilled Lyric audiences in Pagliacci, Il trovatore, and Norma; and is a star of the Met, the Canadian Opera Company, London’s Royal Opera, and many other major companies. Bradley and Thomas will be joined by debuting Argentine baritone Fabian Veloz, a great favorite of the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires and major companies all over Europe.

American tenor Russell Thomas, who previously starred on Lyric’s stage in Il trovatore, will return in Tosca as Mario Cavaradossi.

Eun Sun Kim, San Francisco's new music director and the first Asian woman to conduct a Lyric performance, will be on the podium for one of the most eagerly awaited debuts of the season. Louisa Muller returns to Lyric to direct, in the celebrated designs created by two legends, Jean-Pierre Ponnelle (sets) and Marcel Escoffier (costumes).

Eun Sun Kim is making her Lyric debut as the conductor of Tosca.

The glorious tradition of Tosca at Lyric continues, with singing, acting, and conducting that will have you shouting endless “bravo”s and “brava”s!

March 12 – April 10, 2022



A diva who has all of Rome at her feet. A woman who takes charge of her life and fights for what she wants. A heroine who is brave and loving, extravagantly emotional, yet utterly irresistible. Floria Tosca is all these things. She’s loved by Mario Cavaradossi, the revolutionary, and lusted after by Baron Scarpia, Rome’s vicious police chief. Puccini’s lushly grand-scale music illuminates these characters, and the entire opera bursts with a theatricality that makes Tosca a favorite of audiences everywhere.

Header Photo: San Diego Opera/Ken Howard

Other Photos: Ken Howard, Todd Rosenberg, San Diego Opera/Marc Olivier LeBlanc