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Giacomo PUCCINI (1858–1924)
Tosca (1900)
Fiorenza 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 Oren;
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 16:9
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 house parades.
 
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 bandage 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 his lyric 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. His 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 2007.
 
Göran Forsling
 



 


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