David Valdés

Herd bells in "Tosca".

I have been to Rome lately, where I have spent some wonderfull days together with my family. Among many other places of general and musical interest, I have been to the Castel Sant´Angelo.


The third act of “Tosca” takes place at this impresive building. More precisely at the upper platform.


A sinistra, una casamatta: vi è collocata una tavola, sulla quale stanno una lampada, un grosso registro e l´occorrente per scrivere; una panca, una sedia. Su di una paratedella casamatta un crocifisso; davanti a questo è appessa una lampada. A destra, l´apertura di una piccola scala per la quale si ascende alla piattaforma. Nel fondo il Vaticano e San Pietro.



On the left, a casemate: there is a table on which there is a lamp, a large register book and writing materials; a bench, a chair. On one side of the casemate there is a crucifix; in front of this a lamp hangs. On the right, the opening of a small staircase through which one ascends to the platform. In the background the Vatican and St. Peter’s.

Here you can see two sketches for this third act. These are the originals, kept and exhibited at Sant´Angello, which I was lucky to see in person.

Tosca. Atto terzo.
Adolfo Hohestein (Saint Petersburg, 1854 - Bonn, 1928).Tempera on cardboard.
Tosca. Atto terzo notte.
Luiggi Bazzani (Bolgna, 1836 - Roma, 1927). Tempera on cardboard.

The action takes place during the very early hours of the morning. At figure 3, a shepherd boy sings offstage “Io de´ sospiri”. We can hear the bells of the animals he is taking care of.

io de´ sospiri

Si odono, lontane, le campanelle d´un armento: di mano in mano vanno sempre più affievolendosi.


“The bells of a herd can be heard in the distance: little by little they grow fainter”.

The boy keeps singing and we can still hear the bells.

bells 2

Campanelle più lontane, a oscillazioni distaccate, disiguali.


Bells more distant, with detached, unequal oscillations.

The sound of the bells gets more distant as the boy is about to finish his song.

Tosca bells 4

Le oscillazioni delle campanelle dell´armento si estinguono in lontananza.


The oscillations of the herd’s bells fade away in the distance.

At figure 4 the shepherd´s “aria” has finished and the bells of the surounding churches start playing matins (but that is a whole different story).


The Castel Sant´Angelo keeps one of the herd bells used in the premiere of “Tosca” (and yes, I have seen it!).

campanella Tosca.
Ricordo della prima reppresentazione dell´Opera Tosca. Teatro Costanzi. Genaio 1900. Souvenir of the first representation of the opera Tosca. Teatro Costanzi. January 1900
campanella Puccini
Puccini campanella pastore

The Castel Sant´Angello keeps some other memorabilia objects, like a poster of the premiere, a bronze plaque presented to Puccini on that day and autographed and dedicated photos of the main characters (Tosca, Cavaradossi, Scarpia and the sacristan).

You can listen to the third act featuring the herd bells in the following video (surprisingly, some productions ommit these instruments, which are fundamental to make the audience understand that the character singing is a shepherd):

Imagine my excitement when I saw a percussion instrument used on the premiere of this masterwork!


Rome had many other musical surprises waiting for me. Stay tuned!


…et in Arcadia ego.

© David Valdés