This is Alphonse Mucha’s poster for the 1887 premiere of Sardou’s play La Tosca, written for and starring Sarah Bernhardt, who was the reigning doyenne of Parisian theater at the time. Apparently the walking stick Bernhardt-as-Tosca is holding sparked a fad.

Tosca, as a French play, has Cavaradossi only half an Italian; his mother is Parisian (related to the philosopher Helvétius, no less, and his father was pals with Diderot), and he has grown up in France. In the usual course of plays adapted into operas, the play has a much more completely sketched political plot, and, unsurprisingly, valorizes Napoleon’s victory of Marengo far more than the opera does, adding various politicians and Frenchmen in exile to the cast of characters. The opera libretto, extensively adapted by Italians, obscures a lot of this Francocentrism (and, apparently, corrects the church — Sardou wrote it as Sant’Andrea al Quirinale, the opera team changed it to Sant’Andrea della Valle, which may have been what Sardou actually had in mind as it fits the action better).

The famous business of the candles and the cross comes directly from the play, and was written with Bernhardt’s talents in mind, as she was particularly famed for acting without dialogue. (An interesting question for the opera crew: does knowing about the deep origin of the stage business and its centrality to Tosca’s character arc give it a status comparable to the sung dialogue, as far as elements of the text that cannot be ignored in a stage production? Though to be fair there are several productions that have no trouble blithely contradicting lines in the libretto as well.)

Puccini: Tosca - Act 3: E Lucevan Le Stelle
  • Puccini: Tosca - Act 3: E Lucevan Le Stelle
  • Plácido Domingo

O! dolci baci, o languide carezze,
mentr’io fremente le belle forme disciogliea dai veli!
Svanì per sempre il sogno mio d’amore.
L’ora è fuggita, e muoio disperato!
E muoio disperato!
E non ho amato mai tanto la vita,
tanto la vita!

Oh, sweet kisses and languorous caresses,
While feverishly I stripped the beautiful form of its veils!
Forever, my dream of love has vanished.
That moment has fled, and I die in desperation!
And I die in desperation!
And I never before loved life so much,
Loved life so much!

Easily the coolest guitar in the shop is this dark-sounding, metallic-finished Supro Tosca from c.1958. With a 22” scale length and a switch that allows you to take the tone control out of the circuit, this thing proves that some guitars just don’t need two pickups to sound great. I played it for fifteen minutes, and almost immediately I found myself rearranging old songs with wider stretches I couldn’t quite nail on longer necks, and adjusting keys to take advantage of the deep, rumbly low end on tap. Just incredible. Should be available soon after we give it the once-over! #guitar #vintage #surpo #tosca #orange #seattle #fun #shortscale (at Mike & Mike’s Guitar Bar)