Inside the church of Sant’Andrea della Valle
The political prisoner Angelotti appears and hides in a side chapel. The church’s Sacristan enters, grumbling about having to wash the paintbrushes of the artist Cavaradossi who is completing a portrait of the Madonna. Cavaradossi returns and works on his picture, the features of which he has melded from two sources-the fair Marchesa Attavanti (Angelotti’s sister), and his own dark-eyed love, Floria Tosca. When the Sacristan leaves Angelotti emerges. Cavaradossi recognises him and the prisoner explains to the painter that he has just escaped from Scarpia’s incarceration. They are interrupted by the sound of Tosca’s voice outside the church, and Angelotti conceals himself again. Cavaradossi lets Tosca in and she is immediately disturbed by the fact that the painting resembles the Marchesa. Yet Cavaradossi reassures her of his love and they sing a duet. When she has gone Angelotti returns and his escape is planned - he will go to Cavaradossi’s estate and hide in the well there. They leave and the Sacristan begins to prepare the choir, having had the (false) news of Napoleon’s defeat at the battle of Marengo. The church gradually fills with a crowd and Scarpia comes in with his henchman Spoletta, searching for clues as to Angelotti’s whereabouts. It is noted that the lunch basket is empty, and Scarpia deduces that Argelotti has been there. When Tosca returns, Scarpia attempts to rouse her jealousy; and when she leaves he has followed her. As the congregation gathers, the tyrant is determined to have Cavaradossi executed and to win Tosca for himself.
Scarpia’s apartment in the Palazzo Farnese
Scarpia is dining when Spoletta enters to inform him that the search of Cavaradossi’s villa has proved fruitless, but that they have arrested him. He is lead in and interrogated. Cavaradossi denies all knowledge of Angelotti, so Scarpia gives the order to have him tortured in the adjacent room. Tosca too is soon questioned yet also refuses to reveal Angelotti’s whereabouts…until she hears her lover’s cries of pain from the next chamber. Although Cavaradossi has instructed her not to reveal anything, she can’t help herself but inform Scarpia of Agelotti’s hiding place in the well. Cavaradossi is brought in again and is furious with her; but then the news comes that it was Napoleon that was triumphant after all, and Cavaradossi unleashes a cry of victory. Scarpia arrests him again for it, with the order that he is to be executed at dawn. Scarpia however promises to set the painter free if Tosca gives in to his advantages. Spoletta arrives with the news that Angelotti has killed himself when they discovered him..Bereft, Tosca promises to give herself to Scarpia; and the governor tells his henchman to set up a “mock execution”. Tosca insists he write a note of guaranteeing her’s and Cavaradossi’s safe conduct. Whilst he does so she picks up a letter knife, and when he comes forward to claim her she stabs him.
The battlements of Castel Sant’Angelo Prison at dawn
An unseen shepherd sings a poignant song of love and death before Cavaradossi is led up to the battlements. Tosca appears and triumphantly brandishes their safe conduct. She instructs Cavaradossi of his role in the mock execution, and the two sing of their hopes for the future. The firing squad under the command of Spoletta arrives. Cavaradossi refuses to be blindfolded; the soldiers take aim, fire and he falls. After the executioners have left Tosca hurries to rouse her partner…only to find that the dastardly Scarpia has betrayed his promise. Cavaradossi is dead. Soldiers re-enter to arrest her for the governor’s murder but, with a final defiant gesture, she evades them and leaps from the ramparts to her own death below.