INSIGHT SERIES | Napoleon Complex: Untangling the Politics of Tosca

10/19/2019 03:00 PM - 04:30 PM ET


Among the most beloved operas in the repertoire, Tosca boasts some of Puccini's most inspired and passionate music. Legendary voices have brought its vibrant characters (the diva Tosca, her artist lover Cavaradossi, villainous police chief Scarpia) to life, inspiring fanatical devotion among "Toscaholics." But the essential - and tangled - political background of this universal story of jealousy, revolutionary commitment and selfless love can seem confusing. In his talk, Harlow Robinson explores how Tosca reflects the Roman political environment of 1800, particularly the role of an influential offstage player: Napoleon. The bloody struggle between Napoleon's Republican supporters (including Cavaradossi) and the Royalists, his monarchist opponents (such as Scarpia), propels the opera's romantic/sexual conflict. At its center stands the politically naïve Tosca, forced to choose sides and take drastic measures to survive and protect her lover.