Real elements of nostalgia
here, to see Domingo (senior, that is)
in full flight. His refulgent voice
is one of the enduring joys of this
film of Tosca.
The 'film' bit is important
to note. Filming took place in the various
specified locations in Rome, so there
is a particular authenticity to the
action. It does, indeed, feel remarkably
Italian. The location is fixed right
at the beginning, as we watch the young-looking
Angelotti running desperately. There
is no music at this point, only sounds
of nature. The fatal chords begin as
he approaches the Church of Sant'Andrea
della Valle. No need for stage symbolism
once inside – this is a gorgeous Italian
Some of the techniques
used are, of course, cinematographic
– reminiscence snippets, as in footage
of Tosca laughing. The film does not
over-use these techniques. Direction
is always sensitive.
The recording is certainly
up-front, adding to the orchestra's
imposing grasp on the score. Balance
and depth are good.
begins a trifle wobbly as the painter
Cavaradossi, really reaching top form
(at which he stays for the rest of the
film) at 'Dammi i colori' and the ensuing
'Recondita armonia'. Unmistakably Domingo.
Raina Kabaivanska is a determined, strong
Tosca – every inch the Italian temperament
in her jealousy! The two singers work
magically together – as in track 6,
when Domingo 'takes' a climactic phrase
from his Tosca. It positively sizzles.
As Scarpia, Sherill
Milnes is imposing. He exudes a certain
evil dignity, although it can move towards
smarm in some exchanges with Tosca.
His black, 'Va, Tosca' towards the end
of Act 1 (as Puccini adds layer upon
layer) is chilling. The camera-work
- excellent throughout - emphasises
this, moving suddenly from wide-angle
of the congregation to sudden close-up
Whistling winds precede
the fateful chordal opening of Act 2.
The recording at this point seems perhaps
overly resonant around the voices, yet
it is not enough to detract from Milnes'
superb legato; or for that matter Spoletta's
- i.e. Mario Ferrara's - excellent diction
at speed. Again, as in the finale of
act one, space is well conveyed - here
for the off-stage voices of the cantata.
The Scarpia/Tosca confrontation
is good, if not massively spine-chilling.
Camera work is decidedly of the cinema.
I would have liked to shiver more at
Tosca's accusation of 'Assassino' –
in fact these shivers were to come later
as Tosca bargains with her enemy ('Il
prezzo') and later still in the slow
and well-sustained 'Vissi d'arte'.
Imposing brass introduce
Act 3 after the by-now-expected sound
of wind – this time around the Castel
Sant'Angelo, that is. The film quality
itself seems somewhat grainy at this
time. Whether it was a good idea to
have Domingo Junior as the Shepherd
boy is debatable – I have certainly
heard better. Still, the Jailer, Domenico
Medici, acts as a resonant counter-balance,
and Bartoletti's handling of the darkest
of textures is masterly. The solo strings
are superb; they can sound awful and
they were decidedly ropey at ENO in
2004, I can tell you.
as she relates the events of what we
know as Act 2. A pity that when Domingo
kisses her hand he is still singing
on the recording!. But the love duet
is immensely touching and it is a marvellous
dramatic stroke that as the couple sing
unaccompanied in octaves, we can see
the firing squad entering behind the
Telling that Domingo
refuses to meet her eyes when she tells
him not to move after he is shot, showing
he knows what will unfold. The final
moments are unashamedly shocking – and
in that, gripping, including the positively
gruesome shot of the post-rampart Tosca,
splayed awkwardly on the ground below.
This DVD makes the
perfect companion to the staged Tosca
on Opus Arte conducted by Benini (review
). Lip-sync is not always spot-on, be
warned. Occasionally a singer – and
principal ones at that – will close
his or her mouth to indicate the end
of a note whereas in the studio it was
clearly longer! This is occasionally
referred to in the review above. Fascinating.
Puccini makes us watch Tosca
as we would watch a car crash we know
My preferred Tosca
DVD now, particularly for the often
of the new DVD releases of the Deutsche
Grammophon Unitel range