Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House

Tosca is a war drama that draws you in from the first notes and holds you fast, as a gripping story of love, lust and betrayal that unfolds at breakneck pace.

John Bell's intense production relocates the opera to Nazi-occupied Rome, seeking to recapture the shock Puccini's original audience might have felt seeing a war they remembered, depicted on stage.

Bell doesn't want you to watch a tragedy of fiction.

"This is a true story: it has happened many, many times over throughout history, it happened during the world wars, it's happening now, somewhere in the world," he explains.

"A tyrannical regime, resistance fighters hunted down, women forced to give sexual favours in order to protect a loved one — these things are still happening, and always have been, during war."

It's a reality we all recognise, that we see on the news: the everyday banality of evil.

The sets are truly awe-inspiring, from the perfect recreation of a Roman basilica, to the cold impassive power of Scarpia's fascist headquarters.

In Tosca, some of the most powerful music in opera must be sung by three powerhouse performers, and here, glorious voices led by Spanish soprano Ainhoa Arteta, and conducted by Christian Badea, will make you fall under Tosca's spell.


At last they are alone. The man hunt, the interrogation, the prayers, all forgotten as he leers at his conquest.

Just sign the note of safe passage and she’s his! Where’s that pen? His upper lip sweats as he readies himself for Tosca’s kiss.

He doesn’t see the knife glinting behind her back.

Cheese board

Head up the stairs at the Joan Sutherland Theatre to enjoy the pop-up bar with an unbeatable view of the harbour, exclusive to ticket holders. The bar opens 90 minutes before evening performances. See the menu.

Conductor Christian Badea (until 14 Mar)
Tahu Matheson
Director John Bell
Revival Director Roger Press
Set Designer Michael Scott-Mitchell
Costume Designer Teresa Negroponte
Lighting Designer Nick Schlieper
Fight Choreographer Nigel Poulton
Tosca Ainhoa Arteta (until 14 Mar)
Daria Masiero
Cavaradossi Teodor Ilincăi (until 7 Mar)
Diego Torre
Scarpia Lucio Gallo (until 14 Mar)
Shane Lowrencev
Angelotti Richard Anderson

Luke Gabbedy (until 14 Mar)
Samuel Dundas 

Spoletta Graeme Macfarlane
Sciarrone Adrian Tamburini (until 14 Mar, except 10 Mar)
Tom Hamilton
Jailer Anthony Mackey

Opera Australia Orchestra

Opera Australia Chorus

Children's Chorus: Gondwana Choirs


Running time: approximately two hours and fifty minutes, including two intervals.

The StoryHide

In a beautiful church, the painter Cavaradossi is working. When an escaped prisoner bursts in, Cavaradossi risks his own life to help Angelotti hide from the Fascist police. But Cavaradossi’s lover, Tosca, overhears him talking and becomes jealous. In spite of Cavaradossi’s ardent assurances of love, it is easy for the chief of police, Scarpia to fan the flames of her jealousy.

Scarpia arrests Cavaradossi on suspicion of aiding Angelotti, and as he is tortured, Tosca is made to listen to his cries.

Scarpia gives her an impossible choice: give in to his lascivious demands to save her lover’s life, or save her honour and give Cavaradossi up for dead. In that terrible moment, Tosca makes a choice, and the consequences play out in a heart-rending Act III.

Not afraid of spoilers? Read the full synopsis.

Act I

Angelotti, who has just escaped from prison, finds a key left for him in a church by his sister, the Marchesa Attavanti, and hides in the Attavanti chapel. The sacristan enters, grumbling about having to clean the painter Cavaradossi's brushes. Cavaradossi returns to his work and, when Angelotti emerges from hiding, promises to help him but tells him to hide again when they hear Tosca approaching. Although she begins to suspect that he is having an affair with the Marchesa, Cavaradossi reassures her of his love before she leaves.

Angelotti tells Cavaradossi that his sister has left him some female clothing and that he intends to escape in disguise. Cavaradossi mentions a hiding-place down the well in his garden in case of emergency. They hear a shot, indicating that the escape has been discovered, and Cavaradossi rushes Angelotti to his safe house.

The sacristan announces a grand Te Deum to celebrate a report of a victory for the current regime. Excitement at this news is cut short by the arrival of Scarpia, on Angelotti's trail. A search of the church reveals a fan with the crest of the Attavanti and, when Tosca returns, looking for Cavaradossi, Scarpia uses it to inflame her jealousy, as a way of winning Tosca for himself.

Act II

Scarpia waits for Tosca, who is singing at an official reception to celebrate the victory. Spoletta informs him that Angelotti has still not been found but that Cavaradossi has been arrested. Under interrogation he denies any knowledge of Angelotti. Tosca arrives as Cavaradossi is led off to torture. At first she refuses to tell Scarpia anything, but finally she can bear Cavaradossi's suffering no longer and reveals Angelotti's hiding-place. When Cavaradossi is brought in and hears Scarpia ordering the arrest of Angelotti it is obvious that Tosca has betrayed him. At this moment the news of a serious defeat for the current regime arrives. Cavaradossi is triumphant and Scarpia orders his execution.

Tosca begs for the life of her lover and Scarpia names his price: she must have sex with him in exchange for Cavaradossi's freedom. Seeing no alternative, she agrees, and Scarpia orders Spoletta to perform a mock execution of Cavaradossi, after which he and Tosca will be able to escape. As he claims his reward, however, Tosca kills him.


Cavaradossi awaits execution. He remembers the happiness Tosca had brought him. Tosca then tells him what has happened and prepares him for the mock execution. She realises too late that she has been deceived by Scarpia: the execution was real. Tosca pays for Scarpia's murder with her own life.

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