on February 17, 2013
I have 20 dvd's of Puccini's Tosca- most official releases and a few bootlegs (telecasts never released on video). They range from the 1950's to this latest release from 2011. And THIS one is the best of them all. The combination of all-star cast, terrific traditional staging and sets, and superb sound and video make this a must have for any opera fan. This is the one to get and watch again and again.
Let me start with the cast:
Angela Gheorghiu- I see from comments on this and other websites that she is a controversial soprano. You either love her or you hate her. Put me in the big fan category. I've loved her from her major debut in Covent Garden's "Traviata" (still the one to get). I am a huge fan of her voice. It has a hooded tone that to me is very appealing. (Although I can't exactly describe it, I'd call it the exact opposite of shrill.) She soars and emotes, an all with perfect pitch. She's still very beautiful (important in this role). And, as she says in brief interview comments, she IS Tosca. True, true. She is a real diva (with all its positive and negative ramifications), and this role is the essential Gheorghiu. She inhabits it totally. So, her performance is totally committed and extremely effective.
Bryn Terfel- He is my favorite opera performer, and Scarpia is just perfect for him as well. He has perfected the blend of evil, lust, power, terror and fatalism into a terrifying performance. He is totally convincing- both as a singer and an actor. He perfectly enacts each line of text with the right physical gesture. (Kudos, of course, to stage director Jonathan Kent here as well.) I've seen comments on this performance which point out that he is unshaven and a little slovenly in dress/hair. True- and it works very well as his Rome, like him, is in disarray (and falls by the end of the opera). Masterful.
Jonas Kaufmann- he is the more recent sensation, being busy conquering the opera world in the last few years. His spirito tenor voice is perfect here- and he always looks like the romantic hero. (He has the most perfect hair in all opera.) I thought him particularly effective in his Act one duets with Tosca.
Antonio Pappano- Despite owning hundreds of opera dvd's and CD's, and attending more than 20 opera performances a year, I still find myself unable to appropriately assess/analyze a conductor's work. It's just too subtle for me to pick out (other them tempo- which is only a small part of his work). All I can say, which I do here, is that the opera flows perfectly, and he puts the musical emphasis to the physical action in just the right way. I think he's terrific- but, again, I don't really feel qualified to evaluate it.
The traditional sets are huge and terrific. Costumes, too. This is the best looking Tosca, I've seen. Also, the filming and sound are superb- get the Blu Ray if you can!! There is an 8 minute look at the opera by Pappano that is good, but WAY too short. I would have liked quite a bit more, including more rehearsal footage.
Tosca is, of course, one of the most frequently performed opera in the repertoire- a real war horse in every sense of the word. It is over played and over melo-dramatic. But when done right, it is a terrific piece of musical theater. This performance, perfectly captured on the blu ray disc, is excellent and should be in every fan's collection,. And, it is just the latest in a series of recent releases from Covent Garden that, to my mind, have them on top of the opera world. (See- Bizet: Carmen;Massenet: Cendrillon,Tchaikovsky: Cherevichki - The Tsarina's Slippers [Blu-ray] Yes, better than the Met, Paris, la Scala, Zurich, Madrid and Barcelona (in terms of dvd releases). Keep it up!!!
on April 14, 2013
This all-star production is absolutely the best there is. I've seen Tosca many times, the first one in 1964 at the old Met with Renata Tebaldi, Tito Gobbi and Franco Corelli. I own three DVDs, two with Domingo. I can clearly say this one outdoes them all. I could watch it again and again, it was that good. I just showed it to my opera group and the reviews couldn't be higher. It's really a hard act to follow.
What makes this Covent Garden production so good are the quality of the singers and Jonathan Kent's brilliant stage direction. You have an all-star cast. Angela Georghiu is the ultimate diva. She really is into her role and sings and acts beautifully. Jonas Kaufmann, who is really a Wagnerian heldentenor, handles the lighter Italian role of Cavaradossi with incredible sensitivity, and is able to tame the hugeness of his voice with genuine warmth and beauty. Bryn Terfel, who I really never liked as Wotan in Wagner's Ring or Mephistopheles in Gounod's Faust, brings the house down as Scarpia. This role is made for him and he really becomes Scarpia so much so that I forget I'm watching an opera (he's really revolting), but his performance is so gripping that you leave Act II wanting to take a shower. Jonathan Kent's stage direction is incredible, for example, after Tosca sings her "Vissi d'arte" and the audience goes wild, there's a silence on stage as Scarpia slowly and contemptuously applauds her "pity-me" performance. It is startling - I've never seen it done before - and it changes the whole mood onstage. Brilliant!
All in all, I would buy this DVD before all others. It's a truly great Tosca on all levels, even surpassing the wonderful Domingo recordings. This is the best it gets. It's also a great way to introduce a newbie to opera. I actually converted two of them in my opera group after watching this production.
on May 13, 2010
I purchased this Tosca based on the two reviews posted herein and am certainly not sorry! This is a very entertaining Tosca due to the excellent singing and acting. I liked some of the sets but also found the lighting too dark to appreciate the production. It also was disappointing to see her jump through the trapdoor in the stage at the end but I liked it enough that I overlooked this production flaw. Dessi and hubbie Armiliato certainly have chemistry performing together (like their Girl of the Golden West too). Raimondi is superb in whatever role he performs and seeing him in this Tosca proves the reason he was chosen for Scarpia for the world wide live telecast of several years ago with Domingo and Malfitano. I have many Toscas on DVD because I really love this opera and certainly glad I added this one to the mix. The movie is still my favorite but the Verona edition with Marton is in 2nd place. The Alagnas' and this Tosca are in 3rd. Highly recommend this for an excellent Tosca.
on August 15, 2012
The principal attraction of this 2010 production of Tosca from the Teatro Carlo Felice di Genova is that it the staging is based on Adolf Hohenstein's original production designs from 1900. The gritty realism of the sets, particularly the Sant' Andrea chapel of Act I and in the Castel Sant' Angelo of Act III, look superb, fitting perfectly with the melodramatic verismo nature of a work that is not so much concerned with grand themes or concepts as much as in relating a human drama of love, jealousy and passion set against the backdrop of revolutionary activity, writ large in the sweep and tug of Puccini's grand score. This is how Tosca was originally meant to be seen, and this is as close as you can get to its original intentions. There's merit in this alone, but it's even better when the opera is played and sung as well as it's done here.
It would be all too easy to just go through the motions in such a well-known opera, in a very traditional production and it's easy for the listener to become blasé about yet another production of Tosca, but there's no sign of any complacency here from any of the main performers and never any danger of the listener remaining detached from it all. There's a real sense of commitment in Daniela Dessì's Floria Tosca and in Fabio Armiliato's Caravadossi. Neither are as young as they used to be, and the close-ups in High Definition are rather unforgiving, but there's no substitute for experience. There's scarcely a weakness anywhere in their performances or their singing, a perfect pairing who work exceptionally well together. You don't often get that, and it's something remarkably special when you get such a connection.
Neither singer gives any sense of this being a prestige performance, but both are clearly totally involved in the roles for the sake of the drama. It's unfortunate then that the performance here includes in-the-moment encores for 'Vissi d'arte' and 'E lucevan le stelle' that disrupts the dramatic flow, but on the other hand, it is a recording of a live performance of a popular work for a paying public and there's no question that the encores called for here are merited and impressively reprised. Claudio Sgura isn't quite as strong as Scarpia, but it's a fine attempt at a more human performance of a role that is more often played - and unfortunately scored as such by Puccini - as a caricature baddie.
Superbly directed for TV, capturing all the intensity and passion of the live performance as well as the beauty of the stage production, this Tosca looks and sounds tremendous on Blu-ray. Image and sound are just about flawless. There are no extra features on the disc and no synopsis in the booklet, but the background to the work and its plot are covered in an essay. BD25, 1080i full-HD, PCM Stereo and DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1, All regions, subtitles are in Italian, English, German, French, Spanish and Korean.
on December 29, 2014
I am a fan of Callas in the role of Tosca. For me no singer has ever come close to reproducing her emotional intelligence and intensity no matter how beautiful her voice...until now. Maybe because Gheorghiu is Romanian which is in the general region of Greece. Maybe it's because both sopranos have a dark quality to their voices. Whatever the reason, I got chills and tingling up and down my body when she sang Visi d'arte and that's my personal sign that this singer hits me emotionally and physically. And, let's not forget her two great leading men. Bryn Terfl is a fabulous Scarpia, truly evil and in great voice. Kaufmann is divinely sexy, gorgeous, emotionally present and in a voice you feel down to your core. The entire performance clicks for me. Maybe not everyone will agree. But, as Michael Tilson Thomas said: what counts is " music that moves you ". And boy, does this performance move me
on January 16, 2013
I have seen many Tosca productions and performed in a couple myself. This production, generally, is very good. The set design and consumes are classic and the lighting evokes the dark tones of the story even in the lighter moments. The atmosphere is heavy and oppressive as would be expected for Rome in thatbera. Tosca's constumes resemble those often seen in productions of " War and Peace" on film and the costumes of the men could apply to multiple eras.
Vocally, this is a mixed bag. Angela Gheorghiu has never been my favorite soprano. She is often harsh in her register transitions and her color is sometime smokey. But here, she seems well suited for the role in this size theater. Her register passagioes work for the anxiety of the jealous woman, and her sometime stiff presentation complements the narsicistic nature of the street singer. She handles "Vissi d'arte" very well and her posing of Scarpia's body in act two is done with real grace adding to the chilling effect of the scene. All in all, she is a pleasant surprise in this performance.
Jonas Kaufmann is a lyric spinto tenor with a baritonal tone in the mid range. Though his voice sounds like a baritone, the center of his tessitura is definately tenor. Where he lacks the Italianate ping or squillo, he generates enough power that he easily matches Tosca in the duets. Often, Tosca overpowers her Mario particularly in the first act duet. With Kaufmann, this is not a problem. His characterization is good, and he is able to match the phrasing with the necessary color for each of the scenes. However, this is not an Italian Cavaradossi. The sound of the voice does not have the basic passion of a Coreli or the vulnerability of a Bergonzi. Yet in the context of this size of the hall his performance works.
Bryn Terfel is a bass-baritone with an exquisite voice. But for Scarpia, his voice is not quite up to the job. The role of Scarpia is written for a true baritone with a large and brilliant top range. Terfel has a smoothe voice with very little ring on top, and his ability to sing above an F-sharp is limited. His medium weight sound is almost lost in his second act cavatina and his high G's have very little spin. The voice is just not heavy enough for the role. Dramatically his performance is a different story. He is marvelous in demonstrating the controlled malelevence of the man. Watching him closely, one sees the little things that illistrate the selfish passion he has for Tosca in act one and the self-satisfied gloat of victory in act two just before his death. This makes the surprise of Tosca's murdering all the more effective. He is almost Gobbi-like in his final moments.
Conductor Antonio Pappano gives a standard reading of the score, but he works well with the singers, even covering a faux pas by Terfel in act two. He gives his singers room to breath and seems to feel when they need support. The ensemble works well here.
This is a good performance. Not the best. But it catches the flavor and tone of the of the libretto and the very dark nature of the story. This is a keeper.
on June 3, 2009
THAR BE SPOILERS BELOW.... if you don't know the story of Tosca and don't want plot information, don't keep reading.
I saw this production back in 1985 on PBS and have never forgotten it. Personally for me, it is the best Tosca I've EVER seen. I recently found it on DVD and bought it straight-away. I really don't have enough adjectives for it, but I will try to describe why it's so fabulous.
This is such a wonderful production because all the singers can sing AND act. After all, Puccini's Tosca was based on a play by Sardou for one of the greatest actresses of his day, Sarah Bernhardt. So what is a Tosca without a singer that can act? It's horribly pathetic, I know, I've seen one (more than one, but I won't go bashing here.)
In THIS Tosca, the lead role sung by Éva Marton is to die for (pun intended.) She sings with abundant abandon and also manages to make you believe her EVERY move. They are all motivated by something in her character. You never watch her & think "that's artifice" because it never is. Her "Vissi d'arte" is moving, believable and just a sacred moment in time- a real jewel (nice camera work by Brian Large.) It is also obvious she understands this character of contrasts. Passionate, jealous, pious but dangerous with a knife. :)
She makes you believe in a heroine that can be shy about kissing in front of the "Madonna" in church but fight like a tigress for the man she loves when faced with evil.
Which brings me to the next great acting singer- Ingvar Wixell. While some may find his voice small or dry- I have always liked the quality of his voice. It has a kind of rustic and sensuous quality. But probably best of all is his acting - and I'm not downplaying his voice. He is a singer of formidable qualities (and you may recognize him from the Pavarotti DVD of Rigoletto- more fine acting/singing) but his acting is just so freakin' fabulous that I don't know what else to say. His Scarpia is evil but his Scarpia is human too. By not making him one dimensional, he makes you think about human motivations and machinations. Just one example of the little touches he does that are so genuine:
In Act II after he gets Tosca's agreement of sex in exchange for her lover's life, he grabs her from behind, hungrily kisses her neck, then gives her just a little push-off when he walks away. His Scarpia is always in control. He may want her, but she is disposable and this little movement shows that. Every moment and look and action of Wixell's are right on the money and so in character you forget you're watching an opera - perhaps the highest compliment of all to some!
Our hero, Cavaradossi is sung by Giacomo Aragall. He may not be in the same league with Marton & Wixell when it comes to acting, but he does a good job and doesn't detract in anyway. His singing is selfless and heroic throughout. There are a few moments where he sounds short on breath, but over all this is good Aragall in his prime.
And let's not forget the venue. If there was a devil, I would probably sell my soul to go see a great production like this one at the Arena di Verona in Italy. Because it's in an outdoor arena, the production is HUGE. The sets are huge- they use real sheep in Act III (and yes, even the sheep get applause in Italy! and apparently the tenor does too every time he hits a high C by himself, they stop to applaud, but this only happens twice- I found it endearing.)
The sets, the detail, the costumes, the grandeur of it all is what has kept opera alive all these many hundreds of years. I like a nice quiet and intimate theater experience too, but this is the overwhelming expansiveness that makes for converts!
The orchestra performs well under Daniel Oren. That Act I scene "Va, Tosca!" is tough to keep together (the lack of cannon sound effect make disappoint some, but this scene was loud enough!) The orchestra pumps out a lot of sound, yet the singers never sound drowned out. (When they turn upstage the voices get a bit lost, but the singers seem conscientious of this.) The sound quality on this DVD is very good and the camera work by Brian Large is some of his best. In the 3rd Act when Tosca & Cavaradossi are singing their love duet, he shoots from an angle that allows you to see them both and the huge statue towering over them against the backdrop of the night sky. The whole evening was really quite magical. The camera shows us the grandness of scale, but also allows us to see the singers' finer moments up close and personal.
I cannot recommend this DVD highly enough. There is a great story, great music, great singing, great acting and MAGIC!!! :)
on December 27, 2009
Eva Marton is in her prime in this open air Verona amphitheatre production of Tosca. Add the underrated tenor Giacomo Aragall and baritone Ingvar Wixell fleshing out a delicious Scarpia, and you've got a winner. I encountered this production in the 80s and watch it regularly. Marton was a great Tosca, able to act, with simmering musical intelligence and a huge voice that reveled in telling subtleties. Having just seen the recent Luc Bondy Tosca from the Met, with Karita Mattila singing, seeking solace I turned once again to this venerable version with relief. Say what you might about the transformations taking place in opera stagings around the world - Europe has become a nihilistic wasteland of avant garde deconstruction - the conscious parodies of self-loathing opera designers and directors who hate opera are no substitute for a realistic staging that reaches toward the mind and heart of the composer. I'm a musician with no malice toward progress, but I'm unwilling to beat the currently fashionable cadence declaring opera a museum art simply for upholding aesthetic standards that have grown organically from the art form itself. One of the best things about this Tosca remains the unbuttoned enthusiasm of the beautiful Italian audience, adorned with working class men and women who know and love Art when it flowers with the naturally abundant musical pride and joy that suffuses this first class production. Daniel Oren conducts with affection for all his singers. You can't go wrong!
on May 24, 2015
In recent years I have been waiting for a video performance of Tosca that seemed just right in every way (well, almost). On CD, there are some great performances from the past,(such as Tebaldi [my favourite soprano], di Stefano & Gobbi; or even, Price, di Stefano & Taddei), and there are some older performances on DVD that are also excellent, but no modern video performance of this great Puccini opera has quite made the grade for me, until this one. It took me four years, but it finally crossed my path. The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, which has recently been releasing a stream of great performances, reached the heights again with this one.
Just as I don't enjoy watching poor performances (opera or anything else), so I don't enjoy reviewing them, which is why the vast majority of my reviews are so enthusiastic; it's not that I am indiscriminative, quite the reverse, but I enjoy sharing what I think are good things with others.
So what are the good things here? Well, Angela Gheorghiu, Jonas Kaufman, Bryn Terfel, the Royal Opera House Chorus, the Royal Opera House Orchestra (perfect as always), Antonio Pappano (conductor) and Jonathan Kent (director). In other words, there is little to fault in this release. Gheorghiu captures the personality of Tosca with great dramatic skill as she moves through her slightly jealous love of Cavaradossi (Kaufman) in act 1, through the horrors of her beloved's torture; her confrontation with Scarpia (Bryn Terfel) as he orders the torture and at the same time tries to most evilly seduce her, leading to her fatally stabbing him in act 2; to ultimately regaining and then losing her beloved Cavaradossi in the last act. Kaufman gives strong, convincing support as her lover. He is well-matched to Gheorghiu, in both his singing and acting and is not outshone by her; they make perfect partners for this opera, and have become an established "pair" in quite a few productions. I have heard a few brilliant Scarpias on older CD performances, but Bryn Terfel, with the evil absolutely dripping from him in his visual performance, matched by a wonderfully evil performance in his perfect vocal interpretation, must rank with the best performers of this role. (He seems to like playing evil roles; witness his performance in Faust from the Royal Opera, and I recently saw him in a similar role with performances here (Melbourne, Australia) in Berlioz' massive work, "La Damnation de Faust"
The performance is staged with lavish, traditional and quite realistic sets and costumes. and excellent lighting, all skilfully directed by Kent. As much as the soloists, great acclamations must go to the musical direction from Antonio Pappano. He moulds this great performance from start to finish with firm knowledge of the music and of the drama. In acts one and two, he builds this performance into almost unbearable intensity, yet nothing is overstated, or inflated. This is regarded as one of the Royal Opera House's greatest productions, praise that is well-deserved.
Can I find any faults with it? If I wish to be pedantic, yes. It is the staging of act 3. The setting is not as described in the libretto (this is not uncommon, directors often change the location here). But the setting looks as if it was almost an after-thought; thrown together in a hurry. I suspect it was due to limited space, as it had to be placed in front of the elaborate act 2 set. But what is intended as a hill sloping away, is very clearly a flat, and not painted as well as I would expect, considering the quality of the previous settings. Also, in the starry sky, after a wisp of cloud, a great lump appears, looking more like a spaceship built from volcanic rock than a heavy cloud. Mercifully, this is out of camera view for most of the act. One of the reasons for shifting the location from the Castel Sant'Angelo (a real location), is that Tosca is supposed to jump from the platform into the adjacent river. Unfortunately, the river is actually some kilometres away! Hence, the location is changed to somewhere undisclosed..(We are spared the event which occurred in one historic performance, where the soprano was most unpopular She jumped off, only to land on a trampoline, and bounced back into view of a rather bemused - and amused - audience)..
Finally, after this almost unrestrained review, I come to the technical quality. The Royal Opera House is in the habit of using the best technical facilities, the best video direction and the best audio engineering available. So balance between stage and pit is always just right. The vision quality, and the audio, are both so good on the DVD, that even with state-of-the-art equipment, with a 9 foot picture being projected and suitable equipment supporting it and the sound, I found the difference between the DVD and the Blu-ray release to be not terribly substantial.
People's tastes vary, but I suspect very few people will be disappointed with this release.
on December 28, 2001
Although Marton was wonderful as usual, her dynamic voice could not make up for the sound quality. There were points when the orchestra overwhelmed the artist. I suspect this was recorded as a "whole" versus miking the individual artists. I was reminded of home movies.