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In the second act of "Tosca," the title character moves towards the door of the torture chamber and asks:

Ti straziano ancora?

Whoever is responsible for the subtitles (most American opera theatres use some form of subtitles these days) translates the line as "Are they still torturing you?" which sometimes (depending on how good (or bad) the performance is) causes the audience to laugh.

In my (not at all humble) opinion, if only you get rid of the "still" part, the problem would go away ("Are they torturing you?")

What I would like to know, though, is the exact meaning of the original. To the best of my (severely limited) knowledge, "ti" means "you," "straziano" means "lacerate," and "ancora" means "again."

My question is: did Illica (and Puccini, always breathing down Illica's neck) lay a dramatic egg here, or does the line mean something other than "Are they still torturing you?"?

(To an American ear it sounds like a housewife inquiring with genteel politeness (while applying lipstick, perhaps) - "Hey, honey, are they still torturing you, or are they about done?")

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  • "Do they keep torturing you?" sounds better or is ot still worse? – N74 Nov 11 '15 at 17:30
  • About the same. – Ricky Nov 11 '15 at 20:12
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Hopefully this answer is less controversial than my previous one :).

Yes it means exactly Are they still torturing you?, although I always intended it as an awkward way of asking Have they stopped torturing you?, to confirm what Scarpia told her (since she clearly does not trust him).

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    In general Puccini's librettos are not, erm, of the highest literary quality. Puccini was acutely aware of this problem and always spent a lot of time trying to find the "right" libretto for his next opera. – Denis Nardin Nov 8 '15 at 20:38
  • Thank you. Your previous answer was not at all controversial, don't be silly. It was an honest answer based on your experience and convictions. Goodness. What the hell happened to free speech?! ... Yes, "Have they stopped torturing you" makes a lot more sense. So - Illica's fault? – Ricky Nov 8 '15 at 20:39
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    Well, Illica thought that the work was unsuitable to operatic form, so he might not have put his heart on it. However there was a lot of back and forth between Illica, Puccini and Sardou (the author of the original French play) so it's hard to say who's responsible for which line. – Denis Nardin Nov 8 '15 at 20:44
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    Yes, I know. "Giacomo, Job himself did not suffer as much as I do working with you." Well, there are a whole slew of factors here, one of them being ... uh ... "singability." Still, I thought Illica was pretty capable (with Puccini's help and nagging) most of the time. Opera is weird that way: the only dramatic art in which the text has merely a supporting role. That said, the "lyrics" should always be at least adequate. Buckle up, my next question is about Dante. – Ricky Nov 8 '15 at 20:44
  • Wow, I had no idea Sardou actively participated in the process. Stubborn old geezer. – Ricky Nov 8 '15 at 20:46

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