Angelotti, the former Consul of the Republic of Rome, has
escaped from the state prison at the Castle St. Angelo and sought
refuge in the church of St. Andrea della Valle, where his sister,
the Countess Attavanti, has deposited the key to a hidingplace.
Angelotti conceals himself when the Sacristan arrives. The latter,
outraged, finds that the painter Cavaradossi has given the altar
painting on which he is working - a figure of Mary Magdalena - the
features of a beautiful unknown woman who has often been observed
at prayer in the church recently. While Cavaradossi admits that the
stranger has, unknowingly, served as a model for him, his heart
belongs only to bis beloved, the singer Floria Tosca, who closely
resembles her. When the verger leaves, Angelotti comes out from his
hidingplace, believing that he is now alone. He recognizes his
friend Cavaradossi, who is prepared to assist him. So that no one
shall find him with the fugitive, the painter locks the chapel
Then Tosca appears and the locked door arouses her jealousy but
Cavaradossi pacifies her and they arrange to meet that evening.
However, Tosca's jealousy is reawakened when she recognizes in
Cavaradossi's picture the Countess Attavanti. Once more the painter
succeeds in convincing her of his faithfulness. She has hardly left
the church when a cannon is fired, showing that Angelotti's escape
has been discovered. Speed is now essential and Cavaradossi decides
to hide the fugitive in a well in the garden of his house. When the
Sacristan enters the church with the news that the Italian and
Austrian forces have defeated Napoleon, Cavaradossi has
disappeared. Exulting over the victory, the Sacristan prepares the
choirboys for the Te Deum.
The joyous confusion is brought to a sudden halt by the arrival
of Scarpia, the much-feared Chief of police, who, with his
benchmen, is in pursuit of Angelotti. A fan of countess Attavanti
found in the chapel, shows him that he is on the right track.
Scarpia also discovers Attavantis features in Cavaradossi's
painting and when Tosca now returns to tell the painter that she
has to sing at the victory celebration being staged by the Queen,
Scarpia inflames her jealousy in order to discover what she knows
and urges Spoletta and his men to follow her.
It is evening and Scarpia is awaiting the arrival of Tosca,
while on the floor below the Queen's celebrations are beginning.
Spoletta appears, but without the fugitive Angelotti. Instead he
has arrested Cavaradossi, but Scarpia is unable to wring a
confession from him. When Tosca enters the room the painter warns
her not to betray anything. Scarpia orders that the painter be
tortured in an adjoining room. Anguished by the cries of her lover,
Tosca betrays Angelotti's hidingplace. The torture ceases. But when
Cavaradossi hears that Napoleon, and not the Italian and Austrian
forces, has won the day he passionately avows bis political ideals.
Scarpia has him taken away and explains to Tosca, whom he holds
back, that this confession has finally sealed Cavaradossi's fate.
Tosca begs for her lover's life and, in the end, Scarpia promises
that he will only pretend to have Cavaradossi shot if she gives
herself to him. In utter despair, Tosca agrees. But as Scarpia
writes out the pass that will give her and Cavaradossi their
freedom she takes a knife from the table and kills him.
At dawn preparations are being made at the Castle St. Angelo for
Cavaradossi's execution. The painter succeeds in obtaining pencil
and paper from a guard in order to write Tosca a farewell note.
Memories overwhelm him. Then Tosca herself appears before him and
relates what has happened. She tells him that the execution will be
a pretence. The execution squad appears. They fire and Cavaradossi
falls dead. Tosca, in hopeless despair, realizes that Scarpia has
tricked her and hurls herself from the battlements.