In 1887, year of the first performance of the play by Victorien Sardou entitled La Tosca, the character of the singer had already become a myth. With the great singers of the XIXth century such as Giuditta Pasta, Maria Malibran, Isabella Colbran, Giulia Grisi, Henriette Sontag and Pauline Viardot, a veritable cult of the singer was established which was to become the diva, the divine.
The characteristic features of the diva, rapidly fixed into stereotypes are found in Tosca: beauty (brown hair, dark eyes, enthusiastic sensuality), youth, loose morality, tantrums, in private and on stage, gift of acting but above all of having a sublime voice, the soprano, capable of provoking emotion and passion, going as far as raising art to a quasi-religious dimension.
Sarah Bernhardt, giant superstar of the stage and creator of the role of Tosca in the theatre, made a decisive contribution to this character the diva and truly participated in the creation of the role at the opera. The critics praised her extraordinary interpretation: the theatricality of her gestures, the expressiveness of her face and her eyes, the magnetism of her voice. Puccini himself who attended a performance in 1889, was seduced by Sarah Bernhardt’s exceptional stage presence and her tragic aura. The libretto retains a trace of her interpretation with the repeat, in detail, of the famous pantomime invented by the actress after Scarpia’s murder, at the end of Act II.
Extract from the educational package on Tosca, written by Marcel Ditche, professeur agrégé de lettres classiques
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