Game Theory, La Tosca and Giacomo Puccini

“I see in this Tosca the opera I need, with no overblown proportions, no elaborate spectacle, nor will it call for the usual excessive amount of music.”

-Giacomo Puccini

Giacomo Puccini was one of the greatest Italian composers, whose operas are played all over the world. His famous works include La Bohème (1896), Tosca (1900) and Madama Butterfly (1904).

La Tosca was drama written by French dramatist Victorien Sardou. Puccini happened to see this drama and was very impressed. He obtained permission from Sardou to convert play into opera.

The drama has three main characters- famous opera singer Floria Tosca, her lover Mario Cavaradossi who is an artist and Baron Scarpia, who heads Rome’s police force.

tosca 1

Floria Tosca is an orphan who is good in singing, and later becomes a famous opera singer. She falls in love with Mario. Mario has a friend Cesare Angelotti, who is a revolutionary and is wanted by Rome’s, police chief Scarpia. Mario helps Angelotti in finding place to hide.

Floria is duped by Scarpia to disclose Angelotti hideout. Angelotti commits suicide to avoid being arrested by police. Mario is arrested and his punishment is execution by firing squad. Floria meets Scarpia, who agrees to spare Mario if she spends one night with him. He will ensure that the firing squad’s rifles will not have real bullets. To save Mario’s life she agrees.


That night Floria meets Scarpia and when he comes near her she stabs him to death. Then she goes to attend mock execution and plans to run away with Mario. But firing squad uses real bullets as Scarpia had no intentions of honouring his commitment and had earlier ordered his team to execute Mario so that he could have Floria for himself.

tosca 2

When Floria sees dead body of Mario, she is unable to bear grief and betrayal and commits suicide by jumping from castle’s parapet.

“As to the play itself, I will only add that it is offensive in its morals, corrupt in its teaching, and revolting in its brutality, and yet everyone who admires acting is bound to see it.”

-Critic on La Tosca

While opera fans world over consider La Tosca as one of the masterpieces of Puccini, the game theorist also fell in love with plot and use it to explain game theory.

The game has two players Floria and Scarpia. The payoff matrix is given below (both in normal and extensive form)

New Microsoft PowerPoint Presentation

Floria has two options, either agrees to Scarpia’s indecent proposal and save life of Mario or reject proposal and watch her lover die.

While Scarpia has two options either agree and have Floria for one night but let her lover live or kill her lover and then try to get Floria.

If both had cooperated Mario would have been alive and Scarpia would have had Floria for one night, payoff was positive for both. But if one of them defects then payoff for that person is much higher ex. Floria will get rid of Scarpia and run away with Mario or Scarpia will have Floria and kill her lover.

Unfortunately, both defect and in such case the payoff is negative for both- defection resulted in death of all three.





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