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Decca Phase 4
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858–1924)
Cedolins (soprano) – Floria Tosca; Marcelo Alvarez
(tenor) – Mario Cavaradossi; Ruggero Raimondi (bass-baritone) – Il
barone Scarpia; Marco Spotti (bass) – Cesare Angelotti;
Fabio Previati (baritone) – Il sagrestano; Enrico Facini
(tenor) – Spoletta; Giuliano Pelizon (Baritone) – Sciarrone;
Angelo Nardinocchi (baritone) – Un carceriere; Ottavia
Dorrucci (treble) – Un pastorello;
Orchestra e Coro dell’Arena di Verona, Coro di voci bianche ”A.Li.Ve.”/Daniel
rec. live, Arena di Verona, July 2006
Directed for Stage, Set, Costumes and Lighting Design by
Hugo de Ana;
Directed for TV and Video by Loreena Kaufmann
Sound formats: DD 5.1; DST 5.1; LPCM Stereo; Picture Format
TDK DVWW-OPTOV [119:00]
At the Arena di Verona the productions tend to be monumental.
They need to be to fill that vast stage and to be enjoyable to
the masses that occupy the amphitheatre. The acting also
tends to be monumental in an old-fashioned way with wide
gestures and sometimes rather statuesque movements. TV and
video producers have a difficult task to convey the drama
with all its nuances and still give some impression of the
spectacle, which is part and parcel of the Arena concept.
The small TV screen, even with today’s widescreen format,
can only give a pale replica of what the audience in the
Arena experience. Colourful processions look like doll’s
In Tosca there is some spectacle in the first act, primarily
the concluding Te Deum, and Loreena Kaufmann managed
to squeeze enough of this including the on-stage cannon-fire
into the TV to satisfy at least this viewer. However, for
most of the opera she works with half-distance and close-up
shots. With the taut direction and responsive and skilful
actors, this has resulted in one of the most engaging Tosca performances
I have seen, live or on video or TV.
The experienced Daniel Oren held the orchestra on a tight rein. Only
in the opening of the last act was there a tendency to sag,
but that almost always happens and has little to do with
the music itself, which certainly is atmospheric. After the
eruptions of feelings and drama that has gone before almost
anything would feel pale.
What made this performance stand out was the intense interplay
between the protagonists. Marco Spotti, with blood-stained
around his head, didn’t have time to make much of Angelotti,
who crawled on the stage for most of the time, but he sang
excellently with dark dramatic voice. Fabio Previati was
an uncommonly youthful and agile Sacristan; here was an actor
who could steal the stage. Another potential stage-stealer
is the oily Spoletta but Enrico Facini was far too anonymous.
Still these are all comprimarios and what counts in a performance
of Tosca is the trio of central characters.
Marcelo Alvarez’s beautiful voice has grown in heft since
I first heard him, six or seven years ago and he has not
qualities. Thus he delivered an arduous Recondita armonia and
was truly impassioned in the long duet with Tosca in the
first act. His cries of Vittoria! in the second act
were blood-chilling and then he showed his real mastery in
the last act with a sincere Č lucevan le stelle and
an O dolci mani that could make an iceberg melt. He
acted the role as well as any tenor in my experience.
When Scarpia made his first entrance one knew immediately
that here was a merciless ruler, stiff, purposeful, organized.
bearing revealed a nobleman with controlled feelings – feelings
he was unable completely to control in the confrontations
with Tosca in the second act. Ruggero Raimondi has all the
attributes necessary to depict this monster in disguise.
Every gesture, every movement was so in phase with his mind.
Of course he has sung the role for ages; it’s almost thirty
years since he first recorded it with Karajan and he still
retains so much of a voice that can express nobility and
warmth as well as evil. He has lost a little of the lustre
and possibly a little in volume but it is still an instrument
in fine shape, well-equalized and with not a trace of a wobble.
Fiorenza Cedolins is well equipped to make her an ideal Tosca. She
has the prima donna looks and bearing. Her gestures and facial
expressions are full of life. She works with small means:
just a quick glance, a twist in the corner of her mouth and
one knows her feelings. I am afraid the majority of the audience
in Verona last summer saw very little of this but the ever
watchful eyes of the TV cameras registered every nuance.
A superb actress! Besides all this she is a superb singer
with a Callas-like intensity in the big dramatic moments
and a ravishing pianissimo to make time stand still in Vissi
d’arte. What was slightly irritating in the second act
was that her red robe with its enormous train was so heavy
that she had to struggle physically to move. If there was
a dramatic point in this I missed it but never mind. I would
probably have loved this performance on location too, but
seeing all the details in Hugo de Ana’s production in close-up
added a further dimension.
I don’t know what’s coming up during the remaining months
this year, but I feel quite certain that this will be my
opera DVD of
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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