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"Tosca's" Rome
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Susan Vandiver Nicassio is an associate professor of history at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

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Nicassio's critical look at Puccini's Tosca (one of the most popular and "historical" operas ever written) arrives just in time for its January 2000 centennial. An academic historian who has actually performed the role of Tosca, Nicassio is perfectly suited to deal with the opera's political and musical complexities. She divides her study into three large sections. In the first, she reviews Roman life in the late 18th and 19th centuries, paying considerable attention to how Puccini's own prejudices shaped his story and how Sardou (the French playwright) reinterpreted the historical realities that the opera treats. In the second section, she looks at how Rome circa 1800 was viewed through the eyes of a painter, a singer, and a policeman (the occupations of the opera's three main characters). This section, and the nextÄa scene-by-scene analysis of the operaÄare continually revelatory and illuminating. A valuable appendix very clearly shows the parallels (and discrepancies) between the play and the opera. Nicassio's prose, though intensely scholarly, is lively and approachable. There is plenty here to intrigue everyoneÄseasoned opera lovers, musical novices, history buffs, and Italophiles. Highly recommended for all collections.ÄLarry A. Lipkis, Moravian Coll., Bethlehem, PA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

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