One Giant Leap

Love, murder, loyalty, betrayal, political intrigue. This sounds like a recipe for an episode from a current television melodrama. It is also the perfect blend for an opera. Pittsburgh Opera opens its 2017-2018 season with Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca. Full disclosure: this is my favorite Puccini opera. I love the passionate relationship between Tosca and Cavaradossi; Scarpia, the villain who lusts for power and Tosca; and the surprise ending that could make you leap out of your seat. Puccini’s score takes us on an emotional journey with a perfect blend of power and lyricism.

Explore more about Tosca through the CD, DVD and book recommendations on this list.

Maybe I will see you at the opera!

Puccini Librettos

Includes side-by-side English and Italian texts and synopsis of the opera. (Libretto of Tosca by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa)


This production was filmed in Rome in the exact locations and at the precise times of day as Puccini had written into his score. You can be swept along in the story that takes place over 24 hours.


The story’s action is moved from the 1800s to the early 20th century in this production from the Metropolitan Opera. Karita Mattila and Marcelo Álvarez portray the passionate lovers.


This recording is most famous for the emotional performance of Maria Callas in the title role. Tito Gobbi as Scarpia and Giuseppe di Stefano as Cavaradossi are perfect partners for her.


You may swoon over the gorgeous singing of Luciano Pavarotti as Cavaradossi. Pavarotti and Mirella Freni (Tosca) also sang together as the tragic lovers in Puccini’s La Bohème.

The Romantic World of Puccini: A New Critical Appraisal of the Operas

Arnesen’s book, an intriguing work, brings a fresh view of Puccini to the table. She draws comparisons between Puccini and Wagner, even calling Puccini’s operas a Rose Cycle contrasting with Wagner’s Ring. She also argues that Puccini’s works evolved from the romance genre of 12th century France, full of strong heroines. Tosca definitely fits the bill!

Puccini: His Life and Works

Budden, most known for his treatment of the operas of Verdi, seems equally at home with Verdi’s fellow countryman. A brief biography gives way to in-depth analyses of all of Puccini’s operas. In the chapter on Madama Butterfly, Budden describes the opera’s creation, interprets the numerous musical motifs, and describes the storyline as one of “action that evolves steadily.” The audience is drawn into a 3-year period of Butterfly’s life, a span that begins with romance and ends in grief.

The Complete Operas of Puccini: A Critical Guide

Osborne is the “go-to” man if you want detailed treatments of opera composers. He has also written books about the works of Mozart, Richard Strauss, Verdi and Wagner. Osborne’s discussion of Tosca begins with an account of how the work was created and premiered; excerpts from Puccini’s letters highlight the process. The middle section discusses the plot and characters, comparing Puccini’s versions of the main characters to those in Victorien Sardou’s original play, La Tosca. Did you know that La Tosca was written as a vehicle for Sarah Bernhardt? The last section of this informative work outlines the opera’s musical motifs.

The Puccini Problem: Opera, Nationalism and Modernity

Wilson explores the debates about Puccini as a composer. Was he an Italian nationalist or an international artist? Did he modernize opera or did he continue its traditions? The chapter about Madama Butterfly is titled, “A frame without a canvas: Madama Butterfly and the superficial.” The opera was a huge flop upon its premiere. Many critics believed that Puccini focused too much on style over substance. Wilson suggests that they were challenged by Puccini’s modern score – an interesting argument.