Tosca (includes Vissi d'Arte, E lucevan le stelle)
Giacomo Puccini

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The third highest of Puccini's 5 entries in the Ultimate Hall of Fame and his first to appear in every Hall of Fame countdown across the 20 years.

Premiered in Rome in 1900 and based on Victorien Sardou's 1887 French-language dramatic play La Tosca, Puccini's opera takes place across three acts set around the impending invasion of Napoleon in 1800. It took four years to write and despite an initial luke-warm reception from the critics, it was an instant hit with the public.

Unlike many of Puccini's other operas in which there are occasional moments of jollity, or even farce, Tosca is an opera that is almost universally dark and brooding, with tragedy not just dealt with at its conclusion but running like a thread throughout.

The wonderful tenor aria 'Recondita Armonia', sung by the painter Mario Cavaradossi at the beginning of the opera, offers a lightness to Puccini's relentlessly dark opera.

Picture by: /AP/Press Association Images.