Dissertation Index

Author: Burton, Deborah, E.

Title: An Analysis of Puccini's Tosca: a heuristic approach to the unifying elements of the opera

Institution: University of Michigan

Begun: September 1990

Completed: May 1995


Operatic music is a hybrid: it is constructed neither according to purely musical nor to purely representational criteria. In this work, therefore, I propose new taxonomy and analytical procedures that allow these categories to be treated independently. By applying the formal rubrics of O (organizational) and I (illustrative) classifications to the palette of technical tools used by the composer and the librettists, I am able to isolate and examine the unifying features of Tosca's score.

In Part I we apply these concepts to dramatic analyses of Sardou's original play La Tosca and the opera libretto, followed by a discussion of the illustrative musical elements of the score. Part II is a discussion of Tosca's organizational (unifying) elements, which are discovered in the interrelationship of surface motivic material (derived in part from Puccini's admiration for the works of Richard Wagner) and in the expansion of motivic patterns over the entire work, whole acts and sections of acts, by means of prolonged pitch classes that cut through the foreground harmonies, and function within an implied Ursatz.

In Part III, these same unifying features are traced in three of Puccini's other operas, Manon Lescaut (his first opera to achieve lasting success), La fanciulla del West (his first mature opera) and Suor Angelica, (part of Il Trittico, his last complete work); these findings indicate that the composer employed these techniques consistently throughout his career.

The Appendices include A) an original, annotated translation of Sardou's play La Tosca, B) an examination of possible historical sources for that drama, C) a historical account of the genesis of the opera with new documentation, and D) a comparative study of extant libretto versions, some of which are newly brought to light.

Keywords: opera, Puccini, Tosca, Sardou, Illica, Giacosa, Mascagni, Franchetti, Giordano, Wagner


I. Introduction
A. Statement of purpose
B. Overview of pertinent literature
II. Harmony
A. The opening motive as microcosm of diatonic, whole-tone and
chromatic realms.
B. These three realms in the foreground, middleground and
III. Melody
A. Overview of pertinent melodic theories
B. Characterization through melodic shape and length
C. Text setting
D. Dramatic and structural uses of registral extremes
IV. Motives and their Development
A. Introduction
B. Motivic interrelatedness
C. Wagnerismo
D. Puccini as Wagnerian
E. The Wagnerian leitmotif in late 19thC. Italy
F. The search for an Urmotif
G. Examination of individual motives
V. Dramatic Structure
A. Development of the libretto - comparisons of historical fact,
the Sardou play, the libretto versions and the printed
B. Rationales behind the alterations
C. Puccini's contribution to the finished product
D. Verismo elements
VI. Unifying elements - harmonic, melodic, motivic and dramatic.
VII. Tosca in comparison with selections from La Boheme, Madama
Butterfly, La Fanciulla del West, Mascagni's Iris, Franchetti's
Asraele and Germania, Giordano's Fedora, Wagner's Tristan und
Isolde and Parsifal, and Debussy's Pelleas et Melisande.
VIII. Conclusions
IX. Appendices
A. Original translation of French play La Tosca with historical annotations
B. Original translation of Italian libretto versions
C. Bibliography
D. Index


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