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Puccini's Tosca – Aria Code Episode 4

I Offered Songs to the Stars

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When things go from bad to worse for Tosca, Puccini’s tragic heroine, she turns inward and prays.

“I lived for art,” she tells God, “I lived for love.” What did I do to deserve all this? Tosca's despair and the moving way Puccini captures it musically speak so directly to artists, to audiences, to all of us, that "Vissi d'arte" has become one of the most famous arias in opera. In this episode, host Rhiannon Giddens and her guests consider what it means to "live for art" and how Tosca's lament has given them much needed strength, whether facing personal struggles, the darkest days of the AIDS epidemic or the persistent sexual harassment that sparked the #MeToo movement. Plus, you'll hear soprano Sondra Radvanovksy sing the complete aria from the Metropolitan Opera stage.

The Guests

Sondra Radvanovsky first sang Tosca in Denver and didn't quite anticipate how the high altitude would leave her even more breathless than the music! In the many years since, she's established herself as one of the great Puccini (and Verdi) singers and returns to the Met as Floria Tosca in March 2019.

Rufus Wainwright comes from a famously musical family, but his curiosity took him far beyond his singer-songwriter roots. As a child, he used to stage operas at home with his siblings and, as an adult, he's written the two operas, Prima Donna and Hadrian.

Vivien Schweitzer is a pianist and the author of the new book A Mad Love: An Introduction to Opera. She worked for ten years as a classical music and opera critic for the New York Times. She has also written for the BBC, the Moscow Times, and The Economist.


Aria Code is a new podcast that pulls back the curtain on some of the most famous arias in opera history, with insight from the biggest voices of our time, including Plácido Domingo, Diana Damrau, Sondra Radvanovsky, and many others.

Each episode dives into one aria — a feature for a single singer — and explores how and why these brief musical moments have imprinted themselves in our collective consciousness and what it takes to stand on the Met stage and sing them.

Hosted by Grammy Award-winner and MacArthur “Genius” Fellow Rhiannon Giddens, Aria Code is produced by WQXR in partnership with The Metropolitan Opera. The team includes Merrin Lazyan, Brendan Francis Newnam, Matt Boynton, Ricardo Quiñones, Ania Grzesik, Khrista Rypl and Matt Abramovitz. Original music by Hannis Brown.

  • Puccini's Tosca – Aria Code Episode 4

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