As you may have seen if you happen to follow me on Twitter, during a performance of Tosca at San Francisco Opera last week, I found myself thinking about how Mélanie would have played the situation differently from Tosca. Yes, I think about my books and characters all the time, even-or perhaps especially-at the theater. After Adrianne Pieczonka’s powerful “Vissi d’Arte” (in which Tosca realizes she’s going to have to agree to sleep with Scarpia to save her lover Cavaradossi) I decided that Mélanie probably wouldn’t have killed Scarpia as Tosca does. She’d have been too aware of the complications that would create. His body would be discovered, and ten to one they’d be caught before they could escape. Mel would have been quite capable of going through with the bargain and sleeping with Scarpia. But she’d also have been aware of the likelihood that Scarpia would double-cross her, so she’d have figured out some plan to outwit him. Of course, Charles would have played the situation differently from Mario Cavaradossi in the first place (he’d have told Mel what was going on for one thing). Not to mention that Charles and Mel might well have had different agendas from each other, which would have led to a whole new set of complications…
I was also struck, as I have been before, by some interesting parallels between Tosca and The Scarlet Pimpernel. The three central characters are similar in both–the beautiful, emotional actress, the idealistic hero, the cold, scheming police chief/agent. But the most striking parallels are not to the original Scarlet Pimpernel book, but to later adaptations. It’s in the film adaptations (and the musical) that one finds the triangle Marguerite/Percy/Chauvelin triangle which has similarities to the Tosca/Cavaradossi/Scarpia triangle. And then there’s the ending. Tosca ends with Cavaradossi going through what is supposed to be a mock execution, only Scarpia double-crosses Tosca, and Cavaradossi actually dies. The Howard/Oberson and Andrews/Seymour Scarlet Pimpernels end with the reverse. Marguerite believes Percy has been executed, only to learn it was a mock execution (does anyone know if the mock execution is in any other versions of TSP?).
Do you ever find yourself watching a play, opera, movie, tv show and thinking of how characters from a different story would behave in similar circumstances? Writers, do you find yourselves imagining what your own characters would do in the plot of another story? Has anyone else noticed the Tosca/Scarlet Pimpernel parallels?
Talking of Mélanie’s behavior in the midst of intrigue, this week’s Fraser Correspondence addition is another dispatch from her to Raoul from the Congress of Vienna.