La Tosca

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La Tosca is a French melodramatic play in five acts by Victorien Sardou (1831-1908) [1].

The play is sometimes referred to simply as Tosca, but that title is more famously used for the opera by Giacomo Puccini (1900), based on the play.

This entry refers specifically to Sardou's play. For information on the opera, see the entry on Tosca

The original text

Set in Rome in 1800 the play was first performed on 24 November 1887 at the Théâtre de la Porte Saint-Martin in Paris, with Sarah Bernhardt in the title role and would become one of Sardou's most successful plays, toured by Bernhardt throughout the world. By the 1920s it had fallen into obscurity, but Giacomo Puccini's operatic version (Tosca) endures.

Translations and adaptations

The libretto for Giacomo Puccini's famous opera Tosca (1900) is based on Sardou's French play. (For more on the opera, see the entry on Tosca)

Besides Puccini's version, an English adaptation of the play , also entitled La Tosca, was done by Florence C. Grove and Henry Hamilton (c1854-1918)[2] and first performed at the Garrick Theatre, London, on 28 November 1889 with Edith Craig in the lead. Several other adaptations have also been done of the play, among them an English novel by Arthur D. Hall (1888) and two for the Japanese theatre.

Tra-La-La Tosca, or The High-toned Soprano and the Villain Bass is a burlesque on Messrs. Grove and Hamilton's version of Sardou's play, written by Francis Cowley Burnand, performed at the New Royalty Theatre, on the West End, London, in January, 1890, and published by Bradbury, Agnew, & Company in the same year.[3]

There have also been several film versions.

Performance history in South Africa

1892: Performed in the Exhibition Theatre, Cape Town, by the Potter-Bellew Company under the auspices of Luscombe Searelle, starring Cora Brown-Potter and Kyrle Bellew.

1901: Produced (and billed simply as Tosca) in the Good Hope Theatre, Cape Town, during September by the Wheeler Theatre Company with American actress Nance O'Neill in the leading role.

1902: Produced again in the Good Hope Theatre by the Wheeler Theatre Company during February, once more with Nance O'Neill in the lead.

1907: Performed in the Opera House, Cape Town, by Cora Brown-Potter and a supporting company under the management of Wheeler Brothers, featuring A.G Poulton as the male lead. According to D.C. Boonzaier (1923), the supporting company was a rather inferior one and the season not a great success.


D.C. Boonzaier, 1923. "My playgoing days – 30 years in the history of the Cape Town stage", in SA Review, 9 March and 24 August 1932. (Reprinted in Bosman 1980: pp. 374-439.)

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1912. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp.394, 410, 427

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