Puccini : Tosca
Puccini : Tosca
Maria Callas, Giuseppe di Stefano, Tito Gobbi, Victor de Sabata, Orchestra and Chorus of La Scala
EMI 33CX 1094-95
Testament Records : 2 LPs 180 gram
Brand New and Sealed Record
Tosca is an opera in three acts by Giacomo Puccini to an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa. It premiered at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome on 14 January 1900. The work, based on Victorien Sardou's French-language dramatic play,La Tosca, is a melodramatic piece set in Rome in June 1800, with the Kingdom of Naples's control of Rome threatened byNapoleon's invasion of Italy. It contains depictions of torture, murder and suicide, as well as some of Puccini's best-known lyrical arias.
This is one of the most justly revered operatic recordings ever made, a dramatic and musical gold standard for Tosca despite its advancing age and monophonic sound. It was the last major recording project for Victor de Sabata, one of opera's greatest, yet least often recorded conductors. He brought a distinctive rhythmic urgency to this performance that you can hear from the very first bars, and he wove the vocal and orchestral textures together so organically that they still sound vivid today. He deserves a lot of the credit for making this one of the rare studio recordings that captures the energy and dramatic tension of a live performance.
Maria Callas is at the top of her game, and still very much in her vocal prime. Her dramatic approach to Tosca is arguably even better captured in the live recordings from Covent Garden a decade later, but at that point her voice had lost some of its bloom; depending on your tastes, this may be the better example of her doing the role.
Tito Gobbi owned the role of Scarpia, and considered it his finest characterization. Although he and Callas wouldn't perform the opera together on-stage for another 10 years, the chemistry and tension they brought to those later live performances are already in evidence here, as if they have done these roles together many times. The excitement of the second act is electric.
And Giuseppe di Stefano still sounds youthful and fresh, not yet vocally worn from years of heavy singing. He makes the perfect partner for Callas, bringing an optimistic passion to the opening scene that sets off her more complicated persona. His final "E lucevan le stelle" is truly heartbreaking.