"OK, EMI loves this recording, as do most all of us. In fact, EMI loves it so much that it's available at three different prices - about $14, $22, and $34. What gives here? I think the lowest priced version doesn't have a libretto, though I'm not positive of that. It's also possible that the highest priced version is simply old stock still available at the old price. Probably the $22 version is the best bet??"
Great Recording but Flat Reproduction
Marc Musnick | 09/16/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The performance always deserved the highest of ratings but EMI hasn't done this one justice.
This is a much better engineering effort on the part of EMI than the really horrible edition they published to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Callas' death. The slip case is classy, so is the libretto and it comes with two post cards of Callas. But once again EMI has screwed up. The recording is pitched incorrectly coming in a little flat.
I'm so sorry I sold off the original CD edition which contained tape hiss but was much brighter in sound than any of these state-of-the-art reproductions. "
The Only Recorded Tosca you will ever need
Exequiel Pitargue | 08/23/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have listened to about 5 versions of Tosca but nothing comes close to this version. In fact I would agree with what most music critics say ,that this is the best version of Tosca PERIOD. People say so many reasons why this is the best Tosca and all of the facts presented are true. But I just would like to say that The La Divina is known to not just sing the part of the charcters she portrays but she actually transforms in to the character when she sings it. Listening to this recording is the perfect example of my point. When one listens to this record you could actually feel the pain of Tosca not some song bird trying to sound like an angel but lacks the feeling. I actually was so touched by this recording that I cried after listening to it for the first time. What I like about this new release is that it is cheaper than the original black version without sacrificing cover, quality, booklet and packaging. I even like the art work for this one because unlike the black one, this contains the original LP cover from the original LP release in its cd cover design (very nostalgic)."
Opera as Drama
John Bratincevic | Chicago IL | 04/14/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"NOTE: While all my remarks are valid for this CD incarnation, the remastering is generally regarded as poor. Instead, I strongly recommend the original 1997 Callas Edition of this same recording, still in print and easily available here on Amazon.
This was originally posted in my music review blog. Check my profile if you are interested.
--- Music critics have long been fond of drolly referring to Tosca as a "shabby little shocker" and then misattributing the comment to George Bernard Shaw. No small wonder, then, that this Tosca has long been hailed as the "greatest" opera recording of the last century, even before such milestones as the Solti Ring and the Giulini Don Giovanni.
But are such superlatives justified? There have been many fine recordings of Tosca in the 50 years since this one, most with better recorded sound and many of them boasting excellent casts. Are they so clearly second-rate?
The truth is, it depends on how you think of opera. If perfect vocalism is your standard, this performance will not be a first choice. As adored singer Floria Tosca, Callas' striking-but-not-beautiful voice is somewhat paradoxical, occasionally sacrificing legato for the sake of some dramatic effect or another. Similarly, Giuseppe Di Stefano's golden, lyric tenor voice sounds hollow and pressed on top, most noticeably in the heroic Vittoria! of Act 2. And Gobbi's voice is typically venomous, lacking any real heft or depth. Those seeking consistently beautiful, secure singing from beginning to end would do well to acquire the excellent sets of Tebaldi or Caballé, the latter featuring a young José Carreras in particularly fine voice.
Dramatically, however, this recording is likely unequalled, which is saying a lot in a story driven by murder, torture, attempted rape, and suicide. Callas plays Tosca as ideally as one could hope for--a hotheaded, passionate woman subject to conflicting fits of suspicion, vanity, vulnerability, white-hot anger, and the most deeply felt compassion. For example, her jealous outburst in Act 1, "Lo Neghi?" ("You deny it?), is just short of shrill and is most convincingly pissy. Conversely, Vissa d'arte is beautiful and perfectly paced--a masterful depiction of suffering, in which the cry to God at the end of the aria is a fearful but reverent plea for mercy. But perhaps most striking is the moment when Tosca stabs and then hisses at the dying Scarpia, "Muori! Muori! Muori!" (Die! Die! Die!), delivered so viciously you can almost see the blood on her hands.
Cavaradossi is always less important in this opera, but Giuseppe Di Stefano makes a good case for him. What Stefano's Cavaradossi lacks in heroism he makes up for in beauty--with Stefano, we never forget that Cavaradossi is a lovesick artist. His two arias come off with great sentimentality and his Act III duet with Tosca, O dolci mani, displays some of the most ardent and beautiful singing ever recorded.
But Callas and Stefano are more than matched in the Baron Scarpia of Tito Gobbi. His trademark snarl is used to great effect, capable of both stentorian authority and warm, honeyed manipulation. This is the definitive Scarpia--a vile, slithering, sadistic animal in an aristocrat's coat, who makes Darth Vader look kind of like a sissy. At the end of Act 1, Gobbi's Te Deum is the most gripping in the catalogue, illustrating both his declamatory style and the thoughtfulness of his interpretation. To extract an example: Scarpia's high note in the last phrase, "Tosca, mi fai dimenticare Iddio!" ("Tosca you make me forget God!), usually milked for melodrama, is here underplayed. Why? Because for Scarpia, this isn't a fervent confession of evil; it's just a statement, and it's hardly a turning point for a villain so foul. In truth, Gobbi's Scarpia sounds most fervent when he's torturing Cavaradossi, where his gleeful snarling conveys the Baron's sadism perfectly. But, almost as important, he also dies very well, shouting furiously and choking on his own blood in a pleasingly graphic way.
Victor De Sabata leads the orchestra in a reading of blistering, Italianate intensity. Every line of the score is sharply defined without ever sacrificing weight or visceral impact. Furthermore, everything is paced to create the most excruciating tension possible--when else has the orchestra so perfectly conveyed the desperation of Tosca's confrontation with Scarpia? And when else has the ending of Tosca felt so physically, mercilessly traumatic? In Sabata's hands, the orchestra does a most marvelous thing: it becomes another voice, telling the story as clearly as any one of the characters.
In all, this is a superb achievement that admirably lives up to its reputation. If you've never experienced opera as drama, this is the place to start.