Giacomo PUCCINI (1858 - 1924)
Tosca (1900)
Daniela Dessì (soprano) - Floria Tosca; Fabio Armiliato (tenor) - Mario Cavaradossi; Claudio Sgura (baritone) - Il barone Scarpia; Nikolay Bikov (bass) - Cesare Angelotti; Paolo Maria Orecchia (bass) - Il sagrestano; Max De Angelis (tenor) - Spoletta; Angelo Nardinocchi (bass) - Sciarrone; Robrto Conti (bass) - Un carceriere; Luca Arrigo (boy treble) - Un pastore
Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro Carlo Felice, Boys’ Choir of the Teatro Carlo Felice/Marco Boemi
Stage Director and Lighting Designer: Renzo Giacchieri; Set Designer: Adolf Hohenstein; Directed for TV and Video by Andrea Dorigo
rec. live, Teatro Carlo Felice, Genoa, 2010
Sound formats: PCM Stereo, DD 5.1; Subtitles: IT, GB, DE, FR, ES, Korean; Picture format: 16:9; Region code: 0
ARTHAUS MUSIC 101 594 DVD [140:00]
I have long since lost count on how many productions of Tosca I have seen, live or in TV- and DVD-versions, but it is always a pleasure to return to this work. It has been castigated for being crude, vulgar, melodramatic - you name it. Joseph Kerman’s description of Tosca as a ‘shabby little shocker’ has become legendary. There may be a grain of truth in all this but it is in many ways as subtle as Puccini’s other mature works. The difference is that in Tosca he applies the colours with broader brushstrokes and louder nuances. The production under scrutiny is hardly the most subtle: neither the stylized but efficient realistic sets nor the big-boned reading of the score. However they go well together and the singing and acting are in the same mould. One gets the feeling that one is in Rome during a very turbulent period in history and it is easy to be drawn into the conflicts. Being filmed live there are the usual drawbacks: the odd slip of precision, disturbing applause - especially the one after Vissi d’arte, which totally breaks the spell. It is well deserved, though, and results in the aria being reprised. This is a rarity nowadays and for dramatic continuity it is devastating. The same thing happens after the sensitively sung E lucevan le stelle in the last act and the second time Armiliato makes it even more inward with even more beautiful pianissimo. The positive side of this is that one get an even stronger feeling of actually being there, but playing the whole performance a second time a couple of days later I found it rather tiring to have the drama drawn out like this.
None of the singers, bar Daniela Dessì and Fabio Armiliato, were previously known to me but the minor roles are on the whole well taken. Angelotti’s singing is shaky, which isn’t that inappropriate considering he has just escaped from prison, is frightened, exhausted and in a bad physical state. The Sacristan is burlesque and not very subtle but he is quite entertaining and expressive. Spoletta and Sciarrone are good without being exceptional and the shepherd boy in the last act sounds more rural than angelic - also in tune with the concept at large.
It is always a pleasure to see and hear real-life couple Daniela Dessì and Fabio Armiliato together in a performance. They know each other so well that one senses the rapport between them, they are good actors and though they have been appearing on the world’s great stages for more than 25 years they are still in wonderful vocal shape. There are a few signs that age is beginning to take its toll but those small blemishes are insignificant when the gains of art and experience are so obvious. Dessì’s Tosca is a real character, deeply in love but terribly jealous in the first act, unhappy, desperate but strong-willed and efficient in the second. After the killing of Scarpia she doesn’t speak E avanti alui tremava tutta Roma but sings it as a recitative. She’s euphoric in the third act until the truth dawns on her: it wasn’t a mock-execution, her beloved Mario is dead. Armiliato in the first act may be a little overloaded, he seldom sings below mezzo-forte, but he is a convincing actor. He is heroic in the Vittoria! scene in act II. In the third act, when Tosca tells him that Scarpia is dead, he sings the most lovely O dolci mani I have heard in a long time, warm and caressing but in the end realizing that Scarpia is the winner.
And Scarpia? Claudio Sgura is still at the relative beginning of his career and sang his first Scarpia as recently as 2008 in Macerata. He is a tall man, dominating the stage both through his height and through his demeanour. He is a splendid actor and certainly one of the cruellest looking Scarpias I’ve seen. Raimondi and Bruson in various DVD issues and Uusitalo in the flesh have managed to adopt the same tyrannous looks and Sgura is arguably even more tremendously evil. Vocally he is also magnificent. He may not be in the Gobbi or Taddei class when it comes to nuances and colours but he is good even so.
Sound and picture quality is satisfying. Readers looking for a revolutionary staging and interpretation of Tosca need not bother about this one, but everybody else won’t be disappointed with this issue.
Göran Forsling 

Readers looking for a revolutionary interpretation need not bother but everybody else won’t be disappointed.