Puccini – E lucevan le stele from Act III of Tosca (1900)

by Max Derrickson

Giaccomo Puccini (1856-1924)

E lucevan le stele from Act III of Tosca (1900)

“And the stars were shining…” (E lucevan le stele…) begins this heartbreaking aria by Mario Cavaradossi, a painter and revolutionary, as he pines for his lover while awaiting his probable death at the hands of the despicable Baron Scarpia.  He is pining for Floria Tosca, a talented and temperamental diva, who is caught in a tragically compromising situation amidst the fall of the pro-revolutionary Roman Republic in 1800.  The narrative that leads to this moment of musical beauty is classic opera: treachery, tragedy, intrigue and love.

Queen Maria Carolina of Romehas commissioned Baron Vitiello Scarpia to head a secret police force to restore order.  Scarpia is not only suspicious that Cavaradossi is harboring an escaped revolutionary, but Scarpia himself is also in love with the beautiful Tosca.  Jealous and suspicious, he arrests our hero, and while torturing him, blackmails Tosca into giving herself to him in exchange for Cavaradossi’s life.  Tormented by love, Tosca agrees to an unfaithful tryst with Scarpia.  A fake execution of Cavaradossi is ordered,
[. . .]

But before all that final, tragic reckoning, as Cavaradossi sits in his cell awaiting his fate at the beginning of Act III, he ruminates on his beloved Tosca and writes her a final letter.  He remembers the night when the stars shone brightly and the earth wafted Spring’s perfumes
[. . .]