My husband detests Floria Tosca. Not the glorious music of Giacomo Puccini, but the lady herself, the main protagonist in the famous opera. Granted, jealous, self-centered, treacherous diva who, in the beginning, hysterically calls out to her lover, “Mario! Mario! Mario!” and at the end causes his death, is, perhaps, far from the best choice of a tragic heroine.
No sooner does she enter the church where artist Mario Cavaradossi, her lover, is working on a painting, that she lets her jealous rage fly. She is wrong; he is innocent of infidelity, and the woman depicted as Mary Magdalene on his painting is only his friend’s sister. Yet he is guilty of something much more serious: aiding and abetting his friend, the former Council of the Roman Republic, and now an escaped political prisoner. You see him briefly in the very beginning of this scene, when Mario hands him his own lunch basket with food and wine and tells him where to hide. I hope you have enjoyed the famous duet rendered by Raina Kabaivanska, considered by some the best Tosca ever, and the inimitable Placido Domingo as Mario.
What makes the plot of this opera so confusing is the political situation in Rome at that time. Rome, with the exception on the Papal State, has been under the Kingdom of Naples. Then Napoleon comes, takes it over, and makes it a republic ruled by seven councils (Mario’s friend is one of them, actually based on a real person). Then Napoleon leaves and the King of Naples assumes power once again. Then Napoleon wins the Battle of Marengo and comes back with a vengeance. Meanwhile the poor people of Rome don’t know to whom they are supposed to demonstrate their patriotism. We catch our heroes in the interim, when the republican council is an escaped political prisoner and the Chief of Police Baron Scarpia is a patriot. Don’t worry, it is about to change.
Scarpia is a completely unsavory character. Knowing Tosca’s jealousy and impetuosity, he informs her that Mario was hiding a woman in church, which is what she has suspected all along. Burning with rage, she rushes to her lover’s villa, and Scarpia sends agents to follow her, hoping to find the escaped council. In case he doesn’t catch his prey, he intends to kill Mario Cavaradossi anyway, regardless of politics, because he wants Floria Tosca. He invites Tosca to supper at his apartment, and she can’t refuse the Chief of Police. But when she arrives, she sees Mario who had been arrested for republican leanings. He manages to whisper, “Don’t tell them anything” and is led off to torture. Tosca is terrified – she hears his screams, but wily Scarpia offers her a solution: tell us where he is hiding the council, and we’ll stop torturing him. She knows the villa, has been there many times, and she knows where the hiding place could be. For a while she resists, giving the soprano a chance to show off her voice, but eventually she blurts it out. The torture stops, bloodied Mario is brought back, only to find out that his friend has been betrayed by his beloved.
Suddenly – big surprise! – someone runs in with the news that Napoleon just won at Marengo and the French are marching on Rome! Now Mario is a true patriot and Scarpia is on the wrong side. But not yet! The power, and the soldiers, and the guns in the soldiers’ hands still belong to Scarpia, if not for long. Here is an unbelievable production of Tosca where the action is moved to Gestapo HQ in Rome, 1944:
As you see, Beautiful People, she murders Scarpia and grabs the safe conduct document. She truly believes in pretend execution and even coaches Mario “to play dead.” But he knows better!
“The stars are shining,” – sings the great Luciano Pavarotti, – “and I have never thirsted for life as I do now.” Of course they shoot him for real, he falls dead, but silly Tosca exclaims, “Ecco un artista!” (What an artist), and it takes her a while to get it. Meanwhile, Scarpia’s second-in-command discovers that the boss is also dead and runs out to arrest Floria Tosca. All this is happening at the eleventh hour, with Napoleon’s army practically entering Rome. As policemen are about to grab her, Tosca steps up on the parapet and jumps down from the roof where her lover’s execution has taken place. Finita la commedia. Oh, sorry, that’s from a different opera, by Leoncavallo. You can’t blame my husband for his somewhat severe judgement, can you, Beautiful People?
What does all this have to do with a pasta salad? And what do you think was in that basket of food given by Mario Cavaradossi to his friend the council in the first act? I have decided it was a cold pasta salad and have set out to create one.
I had some black soy bean spaghetti left over, so I simply added anything I thought would give it Italian flavor: chopped red onion, multicolored bell peppers, olives, garlic, fresh parsley, basil, and oregano, and dressed it with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Since I can’t have tomatoes, I put them on the side for my husband, and to compensate myself, I also added a few grilled zucchini and yellow squash slices. With a glass of chilled Venetian Pinot Grigio and glorious Puccini opera on the screen, we celebrated life!
- 2 cups cooked spaghetti or fettuccine, cold
- 1/4 cup chopped red onion
- 10 – 12 olives
- 1 cup chopped multicolored bell peppers
- 1 medium size tomato, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup mixed chopped fresh parsley, basil, and oregano
- 2 – 3 garlic cloves, diced
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Sea salt and freshly ground bell pepper to taste
- Mix all ingredients, toss well.
- Garnish and serve.
About the guest author:
Dolly Aizenman is the brainchild behind Kool Kosher Kitchen (Which her blog and her book are named after).
This charismatic Russian blogger is fond of cooking and writing.
She has a BA in Art and Music Education, MA in English, MS in Education and Ed.D. in Educational Leadership.