“Tosca” Troubles: Famous Mishaps

The opera Tosca has been plagued by many mishaps, even as far back as the premiere in 1900!  The very first performance of Tosca had to deal with bomb threats because of political unrest in Rome. (Life imitating art? Possibly.) Here are more mishaps that have occurred in performances of Tosca:

  • A heavy-set soprano jumped off the back of the set at the end of the opera, only to land on a trampoline instead of a mattress. She bounced many times in plain view of the audience, kind of killing the moment. (Pun intended.) No one remembers the name of said soprano, probably to her relief.
  • Many Toscas have had their wigs catch on fire from the onstage candles during the last part of Act II. Maria Callas, during her struggle with Tito Gobbi’s Scarpia in a 1965 Metropolitan Opera production, caught her wig on fire via a candelabra. Gobbi added another “fight move” to put it out, and the show went on. However, Russian soprano Galina Vishnevskaya wasn’t so lucky. Her wig caught on fire after she had “killed” Scarpia and was setting the candles around his body. The Scarpia, instead of staying “dead” on the floor, jumped up and tried to put out the fire, as did Placido Domingo (the Cavaradossi), who wasn’t even supposed to be on stage! Vishnevskaya only suffered minor burns.
  • In 1993 at Minnesota Opera, soprano Elisabeth Knighton Printy missed her mark and jumped off at the wrong spot of the set, missing the mattress. She had a thirty foot drop onto the stage floor and broke both her legs.
  • An overcharged prop gun burned tenor Gianni Raimondi’s face during the execution scene during a production in Rome in 1965.
  • Another Cavaradossi incident: in 1995 at the Macerata Festival, tenor Fabio Armiliato suffered scrapnel to his leg when one of the guns used in the execution scene contained a bullet that wasn’t actually a full blank. He tried to go on in the next performance on crutches…but the crutches collapsed and he broke his other leg. Props for trying, though!

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