shabby little shocker seems particularly suited to the DVD
experience, perhaps because emotions are so on-the-sleeve.
is the latest of a string of Toscas to come my way
in this format (the Dessi/Armiliato team on Opus Arte (see
and Domingo et al on DG, which still remains my favourite
most recent effort, from the Arena di Verona, is an outdoor
event. Sound can be on the harsh side, something which does
not help the sometimes pedestrian, lacklustre orchestra.
The presence of some well-known names, however, does make
this Tosca worth investigating. Despite being built
on several levels, the staging is traditionally based.
Marton, in particular, is excellent. She has huge presence,
a voice to match and brings bags of experience to bear on
her interpretation. Her voice soars when Puccini asks, and
she can do jealousy with the best of them (against the portrait
in Act 1).
Wixell’s Scarpia is, it has to be said, horrible. He brings
great diction to his part, but also a real sense of evil
– the way he relishes the very sound of the words he sings
is really quite creepy. His Spoletta (Mario Ferrara) is
hardly a nice guy, either. And so it is in Act 2, when Tosca
and Scarpia have their great scenes, that this production
triumphs. Scarpia is positively bestial, and here for the
first time the orchestra actually rises to the occasion.
Marton's 'Vissi d'arte' is good, if not up there with the
greats. She does ride on the crest of her Puccinian wave,
however, and clearly the punters enjoy it. Only Cavaradossi
is unconvincing in this act (his cry of 'Maledetta', for
3 brings with it live sheep - if you like that sort of thing
- and the worst example of interruptive applause yet - and
there have been a few - immediately before the shepherd
boy sings. Gianni Brunelli is a comic jailer (great limp!)
and one of the few musically memorable moments from the
orchestra comes in the way the sound suddenly goes 'black'
at Cavaradossi's entrance. The solo cellos here are excellent
and it is very difficult to bring off live. Here Aragall
comes into his own, his long lines a real pleasure. The
audience evidently agree, and at the end of 'E lucevan le
stelle' he actually takes a bow! He makes up for it with
a positively lovely 'O dolci mani'.
pity Oren paces the finale too fast so that its menace is
blunted, and that the recording does not have the full weight
to convey what is going on. Of course, it is well-nigh impossible
not to be moved by the end - unless Tosca jumps comically;
not the case here.
warned, the applause can be very disruptive here, set pieces
bringing in predictable cries of 'Bravo'.
the back of the DVD box, the Italian press loved this Tosca.
I cannot agree, but this is worth catching. Stick
with the Domingo DG in your library.