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Friday, 14 January, 2000, 12:14 GMT
Tenors toast Tosca
The two tenors appear in a one-off perfomance in Rome
Superstar tenors Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo are to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Giacomo Puccini's opera Tosca with a one-off performance in Rome.

The special event will take place at the city's opera house on 14 January, marking the day Tosca was premiered in 1900 - despite multiple death threats against those involved.
Italian great: Composer Giacomo Puccini
Pavarotti will take the part of the lead tenor, singing the role of painter Mario Cavaradossi, while Domingo won't be singing - instead he'll take on the role of conducting his Italian colleague and the rest of the cast.

In the title part of Floria Tosca will be Venezualan soprano Ines Salazar.

Veteran film director Franco Zeffirelli is behind the elaborate staging of the show.

He described his production as a "celebration of the birthday of a good friend, the birthday of a woman we would like to have as a friend or lover".

The Italian, whose films include Romeo and Juliet and Tea with Mussolini, is no novice when it comes to staging Puccini's famous work.

He was behind the legendary 1964 production at London's Covent Garden, starring the late Maria Callas.

Fiery start

Tosca was first performed at Rome's Teatro Costanzi - later called Teatro dell'Opera - amid death threats from the composer's envious contemporaries.

Pavarotti plays alongside Ines Salazar
The premiere was attended by the Italian Queen Margherita even though her life was said to be in danger.

Three members of the cast had also been sent warnings.

Acclaim from those who attended the first night was huge. The press, on the other hand, gave mixed reviews.

For Friday's event, Zeffirelli has devised a red arena where masked singers face the orchestra, sitting in a semi-circle and conducted by Domingo on stage.

Explaining his design, the 77-year-old director said: "I hate operas that resemble concerts, where singers stand in front of a microphone."

Enduring appeal

When Tosca was first staged, its music and real-life scenes helped to make it a huge success.

It is based on an 1887 play by the French author Victorian Sardou, who wrote it as a vehicle for the legendary actress Sarah Bernhardt.
Zeffirelli directs Pavarotti
The action is set in the then centre of papal Rome - between the church of Sant'Andrea della Valle, the Palazzo Farnese and the Castel Sant'Angelo, then a Vatican Prison.

The three-act love story - which ends with Tosca killing herself - is considered to show early signs of women's fight against inequality in the 20th century.

Tosca was last staged in Rome in 1990 with Pavarotti again playing Mario.

As a drama, it has been adapted for both TV and cinema, including the film by Jean Renoir - begun in 1940 when German troops overran France, but only completed later with the assistance of the late Italian director, Luchino Visconti.

The BBC's Orla Guerin reports
"The opera house is counting down to a very special staging of Tosca"
See also:

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Three tenors are the name of the game
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15 Dec 98 | Entertainment
Pavarotti cancels shows after tax inquiry
09 Jun 98 | Entertainment
Pavarotti is Spice for a day
06 Aug 98 | Entertainment
'Dinosaur' dig at opera stars
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