• Tosca: Discography (video)

    Reviews of Tosca on video media
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    Tosca on blu-ray - a review by member Almaviva

    This is a bargain. $8.99 on Amazon.com, plus 2 hours and 20 minutes of highlights from 47 other productions of opera and ballet.

    Clicky (to buy it).

    2006, Daniel Oren, Orchestra and Chorus of the Arena di Verona
    Stage director, sets, costumes, and lighting: Hugo de Ana

    Floria Tosca - Fiorenza Cedolins
    Mario Cavaradossi - Marcelo Álvarez
    Il Barone Scarpia - Ruggero Raimondi
    Cesare Angelotti - Marco Spotti
    Il Sagrestano - Fabio Previati
    Spoletta - Enrico Facini
    Sciarrone - Giuliano Pelizon
    Un carceriere - Angelo Nardinocchi
    Un pastorello - Ottavia Dorruci

    Image - format 16:9, resolution 1080i full HD
    Sound - PCM Stereo, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
    Region - worldwide
    Running time - 119 minutes (opera) - 140 minutes (trailers)

    Unitel Classica release, in co-production with ArtHaus Musik, RAI Trade, TDK, and Fondazione Arena di Verona

    Packaging only includes an insert with a brief essay (4 paragraphes) - the first one about the opera, the next two a sort of synopsis, and the last one about the singers. There is a list of arias with duration but it doesn't include the characters. That's it. Then, a TDK/Arthaus blu-ray catalogue.

    Optional subtitles are in Italian, English, German, French, and Spanish.

    The visuals are excellent - impressive setting with nice shots of the Arena di Verona; beautiful and grandiose sets, helped by the clear, bright, precise blu-ray image that highlights very well Tosca's beautiful costumes and the large and rich sets.

    The sound is as good as it can get in such a large open-air setting, but the orchestra does seem flat and distant given the unfavorable acoustics, in spite of the fact that they attack the score with gusto, keeping a lively pace.

    Marco Spotti as Angelotti is weak, his acting is cold, and his voice is small.
    Fabio Previati as the sacristan is barely correct.
    Enrico Facini as Spoletta is mediocre.

    Argentinian tenor Marcelo Álvarez has a beautiful voice. He sings well his lines, his shouts of Victoria! are impressive, and so is his E lucevan le stelle. Of all singers, he is the one that doesn't really suffer from the fact that the venue is open-air, his voice is powerful enough to do well in this setting. His acting is a lot less developeded (this performance was only his second international showing after his debut at Covent Gargen) and unfortunately he has a funny face.

    Veteran Ruggero Raimondi is very good here. He looks mean and bitter, angry and vile, and his acting is convincing. He looks exactly like I imagine Scarpia. He has some trouble singing above the orchestra and the real cannons that keep firing (to great effect) during Tre sbirri, una carroza. But then, the Arena di Verona with its customary grandiosity and excess would make the voice of any singer have some trouble here. I think he did very well and it was a great scene.

    Now, Fiorenza Cedolins. She is one of the reasons why this blu-ray is a good buy (especially considering how cheap it is). While I didn't like her Norma where she seemed to be trying too hard, I mostly loved her Tosca. Ms. Cedolins here looks very attractive and very classy at the same time, fierce and proud but also feminine, like a good Tosca must look. Her acting is fine in some parts, less so in others (not very nuanced). She seems nevertheless very comfortable in this role, the tessitura fits her well; she is reasonably convincing when depicting jealousy, passion, disgust, contempt (could be better, though). Her singing is beautiful even though, like the others (except Álvarez), projecting to such a large open-air venue gests to be difficult at times. Interesting enough, Vissi d'Arte is not really her best moment. She is better in the assassination scene, and the finale (weird, she doesn't jump).

    Overall this blu-ray is on the winning side. Pros include very good technical aspects (image, sound) in beautiful settings, very spectacular sets and costumes, a good Tosca, a very good Scarpia, and a vocally good Cavaradossi. Cons include very weak supporting cast, poor acoustics, weak acting from Cavaradossi, a weak Angelotti. Since I believe that a Tosca production lives or dies on the shoulders of Tosca and Scarpia, I mind less the fact that Cavaradossi has acting flaws and Angelotti is just plain bad.

    While this blu-ray is far from being the best Tosca out there, it is pleasant enough to justify paying 9 bucks for it, not to forget the 47 trailers which are a nice touch. Productions at the Arena di Verona are often better visually than musically, but this one is a notch above most, since it does have some good musical aspects in the singing of the three principals.

    B, recommended.

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    A review by member Dark Angel:



    Tosca now and then with Malfitano....

    I recently picked up the newer Malfitano Tosca and found it partially successful, although the older version with Domingo & Raimondi (Domingo boxset) filmed on location is still better and perhaps the best available DVD version, no weak links!

    Although her voice is now more limited in range Malfitano is a near ideal personality for Tosca, still beautiful and wonderfully dramatic and passionate in her portrayal, she plays the distraught diva so well. Her playful teasing of Cavaradossi in opening, her vengeful fury with Scarpia....all up to her high standards!

    Terfel is so natural playing the vile sleazy Scarpia (perhaps too natural, he he) he did great here, seems to enjoy and thrive on the evil energy. The let down is Margison as Cavaradossi, very average acting and singing plus a less than attractive appearance fell short of the mark and pulls the overall performance down, alas.....

    The hybrid modern staging actually worked well for me, the huge fan/propeller in each sence was a puzzling artifact since it has no real symbolic or practical effect in the opera, some nice dramatic visually stylish scenes.

    So if not for the let down of Cavaradossi this woud be very good version, see the final dramatic scene which Malfitano really is in her element:



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    A review by member Almaviva:



    Tosca, Act II only - this DVD also includes Verdi's Don Carlo Act IV, and from Bizet's Carmen, the Habanera and the Séguedille from act I, and the entracte before Act III.

    The Tosca bit was recorded live at Covent Garden on September 11, 1964; sung in Italian with no subtitles.

    The video is in black and white, the format is NTSC 4:3, and we get LPCM mono sound.

    Conducted by Carlo Felice Cillario
    Directed by Franco Zefirelli (traditionalist staging with period costumes)

    Maria Callas - Tosca
    Tito Gobbi - Scarpia
    Renato Cioni - Cavaradossi
    Robert Bowman - Spoletta
    Dennis Wicks - Sciarrone

    Available on Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/Maria-Callas-C...+covent+garden

    Granular image, so-so sound, no subtitles (well, who needs them, for such a well known piece?). But then, you get some gorgeous singing and very convincing acting. Titto Gobbi sings loudly and clear - very loudly, deafening so - and looks evil. His facial expressions are just great! He sets the standard for a forceful and nasty Scarpia. Maria Callas is still in good shape here, vocally speaking, although at times she's drowned by Gobbi and by the orchestra. Her real vocal troubles didn't start until some months later, that same year in Paris when she sang Norma. Still, one wishes that the she could still sing here like she did in 1953 in a studio recording with the same Gobbi, arguably the best Tosca ever recorded.

    But even if not at the peak of her singing, Calla's acting in her confrontations with Scarpia is exquisite. Emotions pour out of her beautiful face. And of course, her "Vissi d'arte" is touching and masterful, although her upper range gets a few notes that have the harshness that some non-fans blame her for. Who cares? It's still wonderful! The stabbing scene is simply spectacular and thoroughly convincing, one feels like one is witnessing a real crime scene with no over- or underacting. Then her frantic search for the safe-conduct and her horrified hesitation while placing candles around the corpse and startling at the sudden drums, it all feels incredibly real. Bravissima, Maria, and bravo, Titto!

    Renato Cioni is fine but he's clearly not the star here when compared to the other two principals. His acting is much worse than Callas' and Gobbi's. The comprimario artists do a decent job in both acting and singing although it is very hard to be on stage with magnetic people of the stature of Callas and Gobbi and still look good.

    There is one problem with this performance, buyer beware: you won't like as much other Toscas you might see, once you get this. The standard here is too high. Opera doesn't get much better than this.

    A+, highly recommended.

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    A review by member Almaviva



    Tosca on DVD

    Recorded live at the Metropolitan Opera House on March 20 and 27, 1985, released by Pioneer Classics in 1999.

    Sung in Italian with English subtitles. NTSC Color 4:3, Dolby Digital stereo sound, running time 127 minutes, no extras. The insert contain synopsis, chapter list with characters names but no durations, an essay recovered from Lincoln Center's Stagebill which describes the history of Toscas at the Met more than this production, which only gets a couple of lines at the end of the essay. There is one production picture in the insert, and three more on the back cover.

    It is important to notice that this DVD has been remastered and re-leased with better sound (DD 5.1, DTS 5.1 and LPCM stereo) and five more subtitle options, in 2006 by DG.



    So, if your cover has the blue Pioneer Classics icon on the right side, it's the older one, while the one with the yellow DG logo on the left side is the new release. Here I'm reviewing the older one (and there are image and sound problems which hopefully got eliminated in the newer release). Here is the link for the newer version on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Puccini-Tosca-...lacido+domingo

    Conductor - Giuseppe Sinopoli, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus
    Production and Set Design - Franco Zeffirelli (traditionalist, with period costumes by Peter J. Hall and lighting by Gil Wechsler)

    Tosca - Hildegard Behrens
    Cavaradossi - Plácido Domingo
    Scarpia - Cornell MacNeil
    Angelotti - James Courtney
    Sacristan - Italo Tajo
    Spoletta - Anthony Laciura
    Shepherd boy - Melissa Fogarty
    Sciarrone - Russell Christopher
    Jailer - Richard Vernon

    The image is a bit cloudy. Sound balance is rather terrible, with variable sound according to microphone placement (this is technology from 27 years ago, not at the level of quality of more recent DVDs - like I said, hopefully this got solved in the remastered release).

    The first scenes open with a vocally good James Courtney doing a convincing Angelotti, and a great actor in Italo Tajo as the sacristan (the Met has a knack for these older comprimario roles; they're often entrusted to very good veterans of the trade). A handsome and elegant Plácido Domingo makes his entrance and soon impresses with an excellent rendition of "Recondita armonia." Fans of 'Placidone' won't want to pass on this historical document, independently of all the rest, just from this beautiful performance of this great aria. Applause is wild after he finishes.

    The orchestra and conductor do an excellent job. The sounds from the pit are dynamic, energetic, very much alive, and the tempi are brisk and exciting. It is all very appropriately intense. When the camera focuses (rarely) on the youngish conductor, one can feel that he is really into this score.

    Ms. Behrens makes her entrance. She is definitely not one of my favorite sopranos, but actually here she is a lot better than in her rather mixed bag of a showing as Brünnhilde in Otto Schenk's Ring. Vocally she pretty much delivers the goods. One would hope, though, for a more attractive lady and a bit better actress (she does well in acting but is irregular - better in the second act than in the first one), especially because she is singing alongside a Placido Domingo at the peak of his powers, both as a singer, and as a handsome man - one gets the problem of the necessary suspension of disbelief - why is such a dashing gentleman interested in such a plain lady? Anyway, this shouldn't be the important aspect. Like I said, she does sing well here, so let's not be too exigent regarding looks. Still, she is no Callas, and no Marton. Definitely here, of the main trio she is the least satisfying performer. Her "Vissi d'arte" although mostly fine, is clearly not as good as the one by even a tired Callas in the above 1965 performance, and then it is miles behind the Callas of the 1953 studio recording. And seeing both ladies in the exact same production highlights how much better an actress Callas was. But OK, who can bear comparison with the great Callas? So let's cut poor Ms. Behrens some slack.

    Plácido on the other hand is simply spectacular. This may very well be his best performance on video ever, or at least up there with the top ones. He is flawless from beginning to end and both his "Recondita armonia" and his "E lucevan le stelle" are absolutely first rate and memorable.

    To complete the quality of this DVD, Cornell MacNeil is a great Scarpia, and acts the role with brutal efficiency. His voice, while not nearly as powerful as Titto Gobbi's (who is pretty much the standard-bearer Scarpia for me), is very well modulated and precise. It does cause at times the strange effect of being too beautiful a baritone voice for the nasty Scarpia, which takes a bit more harshness and a little less lyricism (a fact that Gobbi was very much aware of). Still, if the voice causes a bit of a divorce with the character, the acting doesn't - MacNeill is one wicked evil Scarpia, and he is also able to convey even better than Gobbi, a certain genuine interest for Tosca, in moments when he seems to be struggling with his own sadistic impulses for the sake of some conceivable real love, deep inside, adding appropriate nuances to the character. A remarkable performance!

    Zefirelli's production is very competent. The large Met stage is used with skill, the blocking is extremely well done, and the settings are superbly convincing. Zefirelli is of course a master of large crowds moving through the stage, and the Te Deum procession is truly wonderfully done. This effect is such that one remembers why traditionalist stagings still have their place in this Regie day and age, as per one of our recent forum discussions (available [here]). This is the same production reviewed above in its Covent Garden version, and it is nice to see it this time in full color and better camera work.

    I give this DVD a score of A. It's a notch below A+ thanks to Behrens not being an ideal Tosca and being irregular throughout the opera, but it is still a great production with excellent performances from mostly all involved (actually including her, who does have her peaks), therefore highly recommended.

    A, highly recommended

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    A review by member MAuer:



    Robert Carsen's attempt to set the opera's story within a theater during the 1950s doesn't really work, but the singing and acting of the three principals are marvelous. Emily Magee sashays around in sunglasses and mink coat a la a Hollywood diva, but her interaction with Cavaradossi, and especially her revulsion at Scarpia's touch, are completely credible. Kaufmann sings gloriously as the revolutionary idealist Cavaradossi, and Thomas Hampson is absolutely one of the most chilling Scarpias I've ever heard.

    Still, I'm looking forward to the eventual release (on this side of the pond) of the ROH staging with Gheorghiu and Terfel (the latter of whom I heard as Scarpia at the Met) alongside Kaufmann.
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