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Puccini: Tosca
Giacomo Puccini, Herbert von Karajan, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Puccini: Tosca
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (10) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (19) - Disc #2


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CD Details

All Artists: Giacomo Puccini, Herbert von Karajan, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Alfredo Mariotti, Carlo Cava, Fernando Corena, Giuseppe Taddei, Giuseppe di Stefano, Herbert Weiss, Leonardo Monreale, Leontyne Price, Piero de Palma
Title: Puccini: Tosca
Members Wishing: 0
Total Copies: 0
Label: Decca
Original Release Date: 1/1/2006
Re-Release Date: 5/9/2006
Album Type: Original recording remastered
Genre: Classical
Styles: Opera & Classical Vocal, Historical Periods, Modern, 20th, & 21st Century
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaCD Credits: 2
UPC: 028947575221

CD Reviews

Tosca REGINA: Leontyne Price is Splendid in the Title Role.
Donizetti's Kid | NYC, NY United States | 05/25/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"For my money there are many wonderful Tosca performances with numerous individual portrayals of the heroine?!? There are, however,(2) two essential ones: TOSCA DIVINA,the incomparable Greek-American Maria Callas, and TOSCA REGINA, the glorious African-American Leontyne Price. Both sopranos have recorded the opera twice commercially, with the general concensus being that each one's 'prima' was the best of the (2)two...debatable I know.

DIVINA electrifies with artistic nuances, coupled with dramatic and daring (indeed, heedless) vocalism that no one else will ever duplicate. Such intuitive artistry must not be quarrelled with. I Love it! REGINA revels in a sound so singularly gorgeous, rich, vibrant, and characterful, that it is hard to fault the diminution of the drama DIVINA brings to the role. Ms. Price creates a more subtle, feminine, feline Tosca, who purrs rather than snarls, and who's more fearful than furious when confronted by Scarpia during the 'torture scene', and the scenes that follow. While both divas express their contempt for the Police Chief with relish ("Quanto? prezzo?!), Price's Tosca seems more desperate and exhausted while killing Scarpia, contrasted with the exultant and wonderfully malevolent one Callas gives us. Both interpretations are valid, though I could not imagine that scene without Ms. Callas' almost boastful exclamations. "Vissi d'arte" -however unimportant to the drama- is still one of Puccini's most poignant and beautiful arias. Both divas ably express the aria's pathos, but it is Ms. Price who gives one of the most vocally sumptuous readings ever recorded. Certo REGINA!!! Maestro Herbert Von Karajan, whose idiosyncratic musical genius is much evidenced in the Symphonic realm, was also an outstanding Opera conductor as well. He imbues this TOSCA with a lush, colorful, and immediate ambience that allows his singers to find the drama that is individual to their musical selves. His rapport with the justly-famed VPO is obvious by the unbelievable sonorities he elicits from them throughout the opera. That rapport is just as apparent with Leontyne Price, who he championed early in her spectacular career, as she is more than usually alert dramatically in this performance. Sadly, he is unable to resuscitate the 'dying' vocal splendor of the once-great Giuseppe Di Stefano. Blessed early with a marvelous instrument(and heard to much better advantage in the DIVINA performance), the tenor must resort to much hectoring, howling, and hollering to meet the dramatic AND vocal demands of his role. His soft singing, while often lovely and effective,is a blatant croon. Rarely in this performance will you find a real legato from the tenor, which mars both "E lucevan le stelle" and "O dolci mani". However, he is a truly ardent and passionate Cavaradossi,convincing in his duets with Tosca. Baritone Giuseppe Taddei's portrayal of the Baron Scarpia is secure, the interpretation commanding, authorative, largely lacking any subtlety. His vocalism is big, beautiful, and appropriate for the role. Though he has, like DIVINA and REGINA, recorded his role twice, neither version differs much in his approach dramatically. Sonically, this recording is superb, balancing the thrilling horns, opulent-sounding strings, and rumbling timpani of the sublime orchestra with plaintive clarity of the Act III bells or the majestic organ in the "Te Deum". The orchestral playing is unsurpassed on any recording. The comprimarios for the most part, sing with distinction, notably Piero de Palma. At no point during this performance, do Price, Di Stefano, or Taddei fail to generate a palpable chemistry(Von Karajan again perhaps),and collectively exude the excitement of Puccini's "shabby little shocker". The combination of an outstanding Tosca, masterful conductor, and glorious sonorities of the magnificent Vienna Philharmonic orchestra should motivate even the fans of the great Tebaldi(another superior Floria), sublime Caballe, or any number of other Toscas to own and treasure the TOSCA REGINA of Leontyne Price.

Leontyne Tosca Number 1
American Evita | U.S. | 08/30/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"ABOUT THE ALBUM: Puccini (Tosca): Leontyne Price, soprano (Tosca) Giuseppe Di Stefano, tenor (Mario Cavaradossi), Giuseppe Taddei, baritone (Scarpia), Fernando Corena, baritone (Sacristan) Carlo Cava, bass (Angelotti) Piero De Palma, baritone (Spoletta), Leonardo Monreale, tenor (Sciarrone) Herbert Weiss tenor (A Shepherd) Alfredo Mariotti tenor(Policeman), Vienna Philharmonic and Chorus, Conductor Herbert Von Karajan, Decca records, recorded at the Sofiensaal, Vienna, September, 1962

Decca has reissued their older LP record classics into the Decca Legends CD, digitally remastered with greater sound, featuring renowed artists of the opera from over 40 years ago; including this classic Tosca starring Leontyne Price. For fans of the first great African-American diva of the opera, this is a slice of Heaven, as this recording seems to be made purely for her fans as it is a recording whose value and strengths lie around her expert artistry. Recorded in Vienna in 1962, the cast boasts Herbert Von Karajan conducting the Vienna Philharmonic, tenor Giuseppe Di Stefano as Cavaradossi and Giuseppe Taddei as Scarpia. The recording has been remastered from the scratchy old LP so that it sounds powerfully alive and fresh, complete with sound effects and noises like the sound of cannon (in Act 1), doors opening and shutting, distant voices singing (as in Act 2's Cantata), church bells (Act 2)and the sound of gunfire (Mario's Execution) in the finale. The strength of this masterpiece recording lies in the outstanding musicianship of conductor Herbert Von Karajan and his Vienna forces and the virtuosic and experienced performance of Leontyne Price, who is a force of her own. Critics and hardcore operaphiles have critiqued this recording to death and the common assesment is that while Leontyne Price does a magnificent performance, it's a voice that lacks any real dramatic truth and that the Vienna Philharmonic and Karajan's masterful touch seems to overpower the performance of the singers. While these things are true, one has to take in mind that at the time this recording was made, only Maria Callas' 1950's Tosca performances were considered the best and this recording was made using the then modern recording sound and a brand new Tosca of a new age, a black soprano singing a role that had previously been the triumph of white sopranos and Leontyne had herself overcome prejudice and hardships to rule the opera scene as the first true diva assoluta. While unfortunately her co-stars aren't as youthful or "on" in this recording in comparison to Price, for one thing, fans of Leontyne Price should opt to own this recording in place of the 1973 Zubin Mehta Tosca with Placido Domingo and Sherill Milnes (Leontyne Tosca number 2) In that later recording, despite better co-stars who are singing wonderfully, everything is rushed and made quickly, without as much love and care, showcasing modern (for the 70's) singers' dramatic and stylish voices for a period of partnership with Mehta and RCA record label (Forza Del Destino was the other recording they did). Mehta's tempi are incredibly swift, visceral and energetic) and Leontyne Price's former command of the Italian text had become noticeably careless and instead she "whoops" through phrases and her voice, though more dramaic, darker and stronger (nearly Wagnerian) is no where near as beautiful and passionate as she sings in this Tosca. Placido Domingo's Cavaradossi is brilliant and his best Cavaradossi ever sung, and he's a far better alternative than Di Stefano. But the real reason this Decca Tosca is superior is its lead soprano. After all, in 1962, she was in her best voice, for this was the year she debuted at the Metropolitan Opera, the year she first entered the Big Leagues. This is her best Tosca hands down for this record captures her in the height of her prime, eventhough her co-stars are at their last stages of their respective careers. The '72 Mehta recording is a different animal than this '62 Tosca. The difference is one is purely musical and artistic and the other is more dramatic and hardcore so it boils down for your tastes in opera as either ear candy or dramatic potency.


Karajan championed Leontyne Price early in her career, even before she came to the Met. In Vienna, she had already sang Leonora in Verdi's Trovatore to great acclaim opposite Franco Corelli at the Salzburg Festival. It was this role and this same production she took to the Met as her debut and the rest is history. Karajan's relationship with her as conductor and artist was one of pure respect. Karajan in 1962, too, was in his musical prime, and his many recording of classical music ranging from Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven to Wagner attest to his brilliance. He treats Puccini's score with dramatic flair and epic majesty, broad tempi (particularly in the Act 1 Finale but also in other parts such as the duets between Cavaradossi and Tosca) and also suffuses the score with painstaking attention to subtleties and lyrical sensibility in such moments as the Scarpia/Tosca scenes and all the motifs associated with the opera. It is as if Karajan treated us to a symphony of the score and then added the singers for harmony. Karajan is not considered a truly outstanding opera conductor (his only real rival and superior was Karl Bohm for opera) as he is a symphonic/classical music conductor but in the case of this Tosca we find him more than competent; he is amazing. He would again conduct competently Bizet's Carmen with Price (who never performed Carmen on stage but sang for Karajan on a recording). Karajan would return to conducting the score to Tosca in his later years in the 80's when he contracted Katia Ricciarelli, Jose Carreras and Ruggero Raimondi in another superb performance available on Deutsche Grammophone. Any devoted fan of Karajan should look into his recordings with Leontyne Price and these are found in other record labels and include the "live" Salzburg Festival performance of Verdi's Il Trovatore with the Price/Corelli/ pairing, Don Giovanni with Price as Donna Anna and with Eberhard Wachter as Giovanni; Elisabeth Schwarzkopf as Elvira. These recordings represent a time in which Price was in Europe and poised for success as a major soprano in America (this Europe-to-the Met path was the sure-fire way for an opera singer to succeed at the time due to the tastes of the Met administration under Rudolf Bing). This was perhaps Price's most momentous times, the mark of her success at at time when such things were otherwise impossible.


Leontyne Price was in 1962 an experienced opera singer and people forget this. She had already sung Aida and her first Toscas in the 1950's. Basically, she was poised to conquer the opera world because her first performances were not the stepping stone roles in opera, but the major opera roles like Tosca, Aida and Madame Butterfly. Price was influenced by Callas in taking over the world of opera by storm and in the turbulent, Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's, it was the perfect way to revolutionize the opera and to make her own signature in the Movement. One of her early Toscas was broadcast on NBC and it had been viewed by many Americans despite protests by racist Southern stations that refused to air it. Tosca was never a challenge for Leontyne, nor the operas of Puccini and Verdi, for in them she found a vehicle tailor-made for her lyrico spinto voice, a rich, creamy, velvet, sensuous voice that nevertheless sailed through the highest most passionate fortissimi and yet floated through the softest and most emotional pianissimi passages, authentic heroine roles in the opera. For the entire performance on this record she is sensational and luminous. Her voice is appropriately vulnerable but spunky. Listen to the entire scene beginning with "Mario! Mario! Mario!" in which she flies into a jealous rage because she suspects Mario is having a tryst with another woman. She perfectly transitions from a voice that is indeed jealous and spoiled to a voice of genuine love for Mario. When Scarpia sets a trap to provoke her jealousy toward the end of Act 1 using La Attavanti's fan, note how she is torn between heartbreak and vulnerability to a madly jealous and vindictive woman. She is pure passion. Leontyne captures these moments perfectly, even if critics and detractors' reviews claimed she pays no attention to Tosca's subtle character traits or can't act. She DOES! I hear a voice that is so overcome by the music that she is forced to act, even if it's a little bit. In Act 2, when Scarpia tortures Mario so that she may reveal Angelotti's hiding place, she is a woman who is pushed into despair and who has been tormented, though the way Price sings it she maintains a noble bearing and majestic dignity. She is even "majestic" when she stabs Scarpia "Questo Il Bacio Di Tosca" and she does not scream or go on a murderous rage as most sopranos do. In Act 3, in her duet with Mario she is sublime and triumphant. Comparisons to Maria Callas have been made, inevitably but frankly, Callas and Price are two entirely different artists with distinctly individual approach. Callas was an actress and her voice was choked with the intensity of the emotional components of the heroines she portrayed. Callas sang with her gut, with blood and fire and this made her a legend. Price was intelligent and studied her roles academically but prioritized singing beautifully and elegantly, with attention to detail in the music. Nevertheless, depending on the conductor she was performing for, she could find the drama from deep in her black woman's soul and often it carried over into the performance. For her Aida was very personal and that is why that performance was her absolute best. Tosca was not so personal but she wanted to record a best-selling album to rival Callas and Tebaldi's, which were the previous winners, and to be in an entirely different category of her own. This recording shows off her youthful, spirited voice that masters everything about what Tosca is all about - power, passion, beauty, vulnerability, despair and romance. I didn't find a fault in anything except she cops out a the end when upon discovering that Mario is really dead, she goes a little looney and makes her voice sound pretty cheesy-dramatic. Thank God it's only for a few seconds but she seems to climax in a less noble way. She had already sang a very glittering Tosca so she logically ends it in a more campy manner. It's very annoying to hear her hysteria though. But even with this, I still prefer this Tosca to even Maria Callas' eternally popular 1950's EMI recording. Callas is no better or wose than Price and Price, too, has moments of grandeur and of flaw; but this Tosca is divine, so wonderful one has to experience it for themselves. It's amazing to hear this American woman triumph in a role that had always belonged to non-Americans overseas. And it was only the beginning. Aida would follow in the 1960's and she would continue to sing Verdi (La Forza Del Destino) Mozart (Don Giovanni, Cosi Fan Tutte, Figaro) and Puccini (Butterfly) Bizet (Carmen) before experimenting with various repertoires (Gershwin, Handel, Massenet, Britten, Wagner and Strauss)in concert form as depicted in the 4-CD set "Prima Donna" album. For rabid fans of Leontyne, this first Tosca is a must have and a keeper to add to all the other Leontyne Price memorabilia.


Yes, Giuseppe Di Stefano in '62 could not knock them dead as he did when he was singing the role of Mario opposite Callas and Tebaldi. Yes, there is, as the Editorial Review states, a crack in the voice as he belts out the duet in the last act. For the more fortissimo passages, he is screaming and merely putting up the volumeto his voice. There is no finesse or beauty of tenor voice but this owes to his age. He was cast with Price for his experience with the opera (perhaps Karajan or Price herself did not wish for Cavaradossi to be performed by a newbie)Even with the sad lack of technical artistry, his "E Lucevan La Stelle" the major aria is well-executed and I find nothing faulty in the duets in which he relaxes his voice along with Price and the orchestra. Yeah he's older bu he still has a voice! Note how he exclaims in stentorian fortissimi "Vittoria! Vittoria" in Act 2. So for fans of Di Stefano, this is also a fine recording to add to your collection. He does sound in-synch next to Leontyne, which is a must for Mario-Tosca pairings. I can feel these two really trying hard to sound like they're in love. It would have been a lot better for the success of this recording to have casted Franco Corelli as Cavaradossi, seeing as Corelli knew the role and had the perfect voice in its prime for it and it would have added to the Price-Corelli pairing that had already been seen with "Trovatore". Where was Corelli during the making of this recording and why didn't anyone think of contracting him ????? Corelli would indeed sing Cavaradossi later in 1967 in a recording (also under Decca) with Birgit Nilsson who is an entirely different and less romantic Tosca when you compare the Valkyrie voice next to the angelic Leontyne. To think of how Corelli-Price would have sounded together in Tosca! Corelli had the honor of singing opposite Price once only on record - the Karajan Carmen with Leontyne Price.

Giuseppe Taddei, detractors insist, is also singing past his prime and lacks a je ne sai quais in his performance as the sinister, sadistic, lustful and evil Scarpia. Nonsense. His voice perfectly encompasses all the signature villainous traits. Plus, his Scarpia is quite LOUD and ANGRY sounding, which gives Scarpia an edge, a menacing and powerful alpha male quality that is absolutely necessary. To my ears none of the other interpretors - Tito Gobbi, Sherill Milnes, Samuel Ramey or Ruggero Raimondi possess the authentic intensity that Taddei employs for Scarpia. It's a matter of preference. There are many who want to hear a rich, lyric baritone who, despite being the monster of the opera, has to please musically to the ear. I don't see how his character needs to sound "beautiful" when his soul is so ugly. Listen to how Taddei, in his first lines, shouts: "Un Tal Bacciano in chiesa! Bel Rispetto!". Already, he establishes his commanding, evil quality as Scarpia. Karajan was wise enough to contract basso-buffo Fernando Corena as the comic relief role of the Sacristan. He is hilarious and he even uses falsetto for comic affect. He was also doing many of these kind of roles and his career with Decca continued in the 60's. Next to the dark, invective-style voice of Taddei's Scarpia, Corena sounds more like Leporello in Don Giovanni, only far more wimpy. It's such a fine contrast - Taddei and Corena and it's even more miraculous when one realizes that Taddei had in his own career sang Leporello! If a baritoen has a voice that can do both Mozart (Don Giovanni, Figaro) and Scarpia, then it's a very unique and very well-endowed voice. The only other similar flexible baritone who could do comic and dramatic roles was Dietrich Fischer Dieskau (who recorded for Deutsche Grammophone) but you can hear his take on Scarpia in the Decca Tosca with Nilsson and Corelli.

So, please, opera fans, consider this to be the GREATEST TOSCA EVER MADE. If not, then certainly among the higher ranks of Tosca recordings commercially available. It's Leontyne Price at her absolute best, a passionate, golden voice full of bloom. These recordings (the others were with Leindorf conducting - Aida, Butterfly, Cosi Fan Tutte, represented her first step into the realm of the record industry, a way to promote herself as an artist in the mostly white opera world of the early 1960's. Her later recordings made in the 1970's show her in less stylish voice but find her to be incredibly dramatic and experienced, a veteran star. Her Tosca may not be to everyone's tastes and perhaps not the grandest of the grandest but she is competent. There are very competent Tosca singers like Callas, Tebaldi, Zinka Milanov, Monsterrat Caballe, Katia Ricciarelli, Renata Scotto, Carol Vaness, Eva Marton and Angela Gheorguiu, sopranos who brought their own signature and uniqueness to the most coveted role in all opera. But Price belongs to a different generation, a time when it mattered to be undertaking the role for personal reasons and for very revolutionary purposes. Need I SAY MORE ? This reissue has replaced the previous Decca Legends copies which are no longer commercially available (the other one had a black-and-white photograph of Karajan giving Price a big hug) and that one was a wonderful set of copies but they remastered it again probably for better sound and overall efficiency."