Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Giacomo Puccini, Colin Davis, Royal Opera House Chorus and Orchestra Covent Garden|
Puccini: Tosca [Hybrid SACD]
Listen to Samples
One of the Best-Ever Toscas Now in Splendid SACD Sound!
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 11/13/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This Tosca was recorded in 1976 and originally issued by Philips in both plain-vanilla stereo and the then-new quadraphonic sound. The quad format didn't survive largely because the grooves of vinyl LPs simply couldn't contain and transmit the full sound of the otherwise superior sound recording system. Fortunately, Philips kept the master tapes and that superior-sounding recording is now reissued on the PentaTone label (a newish label started by former Philips technical personnel) in hybrid SACD format. Hybrid SACD is playable on regular stereo CD players and also with SACD playback equipment. Even in plain stereo CD the sound here is amazingly good. On SACD equipment it is sensational.
All this would be of no particular importance if this performance of Tosca were not musically satisfying in itself. But, thankfully, this is luxurious casting and all the principals are in marvelous voice. We have Montserrat Caballé at the height of her powers -- her 'Vissi d'arte' is one of the loveliest ever recorded. Some quibbled early on that she didn't have the spinto coloring to handle the more dramatic aspects of the role, but frankly I don't hear that at all. In her scene in Act II with Scarpia she is plenty dramatic. She is able to vent her fury without making ugly sounds. And the lyrical passages throughout are marvelous. Her justly acclaimed pianissimos in alt are here in abundance. José Carreras, as Cavaradossi, is in his very best voice. He recorded the role three years later with Karajan and the voice was then already showing some wear. But here the voice is full-throated and beautiful. His two big arias and the love duet are ravishing. Scarpia is sung by Ingvar Wixell, not a baritone one would ordinarily think of for the role -- and who can think of the role without thinking of Tito Gobbi? -- but he brings a rather lighter voiced but suavely evil approach to the role and I for one am convinced by it. And speaking of luxury casting: Angelotti is sung magnificently by the young Samuel Ramey, at the start of his career before he had essayed the larger, more dramatic role of Scarpia.
There are those who feel that Colin Davis was not a very good Puccini conductor. I beg to differ. This may not be the most flashily dramatic version on CD, but the orchestral contribution here -- by the Covent Garden orchestra -- is among the most flexible and finely detailed ever recorded. Davis is a superb accompanist for these great singers. I frankly count this Tosca as one of the two or three greatest I've ever heard. And if you have SACD or even feel the need for a new version of Tosca for playing in regular CD, I urgently recommend this one. Particularly because of the contributions by Caballé, Carreras, Wixell and Davis, this is a recording for the ages.
Tosca for the Ages
Joseph L. Ponessa | Glendive MT USA | 07/14/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I prefer opera on video rather than audio, but I have compared the opening notes of this recording with the ten versions that I have on DVD and laserdisc. There just is more Puccini captured here than anywhere else. The sonics alone recommend this disc highly.
I am very fond of the Montserrat-José partnership, since I heard them sing the final duet from Andre Chenier at the Met centennial gala telecast on PBS in 1983. A few years later I had a chance to hear them together on the stage of the Rome Opera in Massenet's Herodiade, and went to three performances of that production, and that tells you what I thought of them.
Caballé stayed at a very high level throughout her career, while Carreras slid down from a very great height. Here the two of them meet on the same plateau. Caballé produced undoubtedly the most beautiful rendition ever of the title rôle, and the lead character is supposed to be an opera singer, so no matter how well the singer can act it is totally out of character for any Tosca to produce harsh notes! All the sopranos of his youth loved to sing with Carreras, because he partnered them so well, singing for them and with them, and never for his own glory. Despite whatever merits of singing or acting, a grandstanding tenor would be completely foreign to the spirit of the character Cavadarossi, whose high ideals merge with empathic understanding. Tosca does not understand his ideals or completely trust his love for her, and that is the tragedy of the opera. Caballé's sweet tones disguise her own great musical intelligence, which saves the climax for the final moment in which Tosca finally realizes everything for the first time."