Maria Callas sings "Vissi d'arte"

Maria Callas sings Vissi d’arte (Tosca)

Maria Callas sings “Vissi d’arte” (English: “I lived for art”), a soprano aria from act 2 of the opera Tosca by the Italian composer Giacomo Puccini. At the Royal Opera House (Covent Garden), London, 1964.

Tosca is an opera in three acts by Giacomo Puccini to an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa. It premiered at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome on 14 January 1900. The work, based on Victorien Sardou’s 1887 French-language dramatic play, La Tosca, is a melodramatic piece set in Rome in June 1800, with the Kingdom of Naples’s control of Rome threatened by Napoleon’s invasion of Italy. It contains depictions of torture, murder and suicide, as well as some of Puccini’s best-known lyrical arias.

According to the libretto, the action of Tosca occurs in Rome in June 1800. Sardou, in his play, dates it more precisely; La Tosca takes place in the afternoon, evening, and early morning of 17 and 18 June 1800.

The aria is sung by Floria Tosca as she thinks of her fate, how the life of her beloved, Mario Cavaradossi, is at the mercy of Baron Scarpia and why God has seemingly abandoned her. The vocal range is E♭4 to B♭5.

Baron Scarpia orders the torture of Cavaradossi to cease and the wounded painter is brought back in. He recovers consciousness and, learning of Tosca’s betrayal, is furious with her. Sciarrone, a police agent, enters with news of Napoleon’s victory at Marengo; Cavaradossi gloats, telling Scarpia that his rule of terror will soon be at an end, before being dragged away by Scarpia’s men. Scarpia, left with Tosca, proposes a bargain: if she gives herself to him, Cavaradossi will be freed. She is revolted, and repeatedly rejects his advances. Outside she hears the drums that announce an execution; as Scarpia awaits her decision, she prays to God for help, asking why He has abandoned her: “Vissi d’arte” (“I lived for art”).

Libretto

Vissi d’arte

Vissi d’arte, vissi d’amore,
non feci mai male ad anima viva!
Con man furtiva
quante miserie conobbi aiutai.

Sempre con fe’ sincera
la mia preghiera
ai santi tabernacoli salì.
Sempre con fe’ sincera
diedi fiori agli altar.

Nell’ora del dolore
perché, perché, Signore,
perché me ne rimuneri così?

Diedi gioielli della Madonna al manto,
e diedi il canto agli astri, al ciel,
che ne ridean più belli.
Nell’ora del dolore,
perché, perché, Signor,
ah, perché me ne rimuneri così?

I lived for art

I lived for art, I lived for love,
I never harmed a living soul!
With a discreet hand
I relieved all misfortunes I encountered.

Always with sincere faith
my prayer
rose to the holy tabernacles.
Always with sincere faith
I decorated the altars with flowers.

In this hour of grief,
why, why, Lord,
why do you reward me thus?

I donated jewels to the Madonna’s mantle,
and offered songs to the stars and heaven,
which thus shone with more beauty.
In this hour of grief,
why, why, Lord,
ah, why do you reward me thus?

Sources