> Giacomo Puccini - an introduction toTosca [NH]: Classical CD Reviews- Jun2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
An Introduction to TOSCA (musical excerpts with spoken guide)
Thomson Smillie, writer.
David Timson, narrator.
Featuring musical examples from Naxos 8.660001-02 (Nelly Miricioiu/Silvano Carroli/Giorgio Lamberti/Slovak Philharmonic Choir/Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra/Alexander Rahbari)
NAXOS 8.558047 [67.59]


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This disc, part audiobook, part highlights CD, is one of the initial half dozen in Naxos's ‘Opera Explained’ series (others include Carmen, The Barber of Seville and La Bohème), which is written by Thomson Smillie and narrated by David Timson, the latter having previously served a similar role on the same company's (excellent) complete recording of the English version of Stravinsky's A Soldier's Tale.

On this evidence, the series will be both informative and entertaining, although maybe its enduring value will be as a library item, of a great deal more use to the student of music than to the Puccini completist who, in all truth, will not only be more than familiar with the opera and its main foci, but will also no doubt have various recorded versions to compare and contrast.

The examples on this disc are taken from the full Naxos recording, under Alexander Rahbari. When released, that set was praised mainly for the qualities of Nelly Miricioiu's soprano, something I would echo on the evidence presented here (Vissi d'arte etc.), but was found lacking somewhat in respect of the contributions of the other soloists and, especially, the orchestral tempi adopted. The latter is perhaps harder to discern from excerpts but that is, I believe, to miss the point entirely because I don't believe anyone would knowingly buy this purely as a highlights CD. It cannot function as such because the narration and excerpts are not cued separately and, to be fair to its producers, the flow of the programme would probably not be so seamless if this were the case.

If the main aim of this project is to enlighten and educate then it certainly achieves its goal; as a listening experience it is, perhaps like anything of this nature, if not a one-off, difficult to imagine listening to on a regular, repeated basis. Whether this is of any consequence, given the minimal outlay involved, is another matter, and therefore this venture has to be commended and supported.

Neil Horner

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