Puccini - Tosca
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Tosca is set in Rome at the end of the 18th century. Love and jealousy drive the story to its inevitable, tragic end. Tosca ,an actress,kills her tormentor, Scarpia, and rushes to save her lover, Mario. All goes awry and Mario is executed. Tosca, in an act of defiance, then throws herself from the roof of - Castel Sant'angelo to her death.
Benoit Jacquot's filmed Tosca treads a fine line between operatic staginess and cinematic contrivance. As per the libretto, each act takes place in a single setting, but with the singers here miming to a pre-recorded soundtrack. Jacquot freely reminds us of the conceit with cutaways to the recording session itself--revealing conductor, orchestra, and soloists at work--thus a bridge is made between the on-screen action and the music-making itself, and the inherent duality of any opera production is laid refreshingly bare. The same cannot be said for the director's decision to interpolate spoken dialogue over the music in key places--a distraction, not an enhancement.
Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna are glamorous and attractive enough to make the most of their Hollywood-style close-ups; their singing easily bears similar close scrutiny--as anyone who owns the CD soundtrack album will surely already know. If Alagna lacks a little power as Cavaradossi on record, his charismatic screen presence happily compensates; while Gheorghiu is both vocally and physically almost ideal as Tosca. Ruggero Raimondi's Scarpia completes an outstanding trio; and in the pit (or, rather, in the studio) conductor Antonio Pappano handles the drama of Puccini's score without missing a single nuance. Both musically and visually, then, this is a Tosca to treasure. --Mark WalkerSee all Editorial Reviews
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First of all, Angela Gheorghiu is spectacularly stunning in her performance of the Floria Tosca role. Her singing is excellent and her acting is emotionally compelling. In addition to that, she looks as beautiful as ever.
Ruggero Raimondi is in top form as the villain Scarpia ... his chilling portrail is one to be admired, and his vocal ability lacks nothing. His scenes with Ms. Gheorghiu are intense and mesmerizing.
Lastly, the staged setting for much of the film I find fascinating - the use of a pitch black backdrop surrounding the set highlights the wonderful colors and beautiful decor of the church and Scarpia's office.
The picture quality (and I do enjoy a fine picture) to me is acceptable. Because the picture of the Kultur release is in a 4:3 frame ratio, it does not fill the screen on my 46" flat screen when the tv picture is set on "full" mode. However, when I change the screen to "zoom", the picture fills the tv screen, and thank goodness, the subtitles remain on the screen as well. Certainly some of the picture is lost in "zoom" mode , but considering the quality of the performances and the beautiful images, it is a compromise I am satisfied to live with. The sound quality of the Kultur release is OK.
I considered buying a multi-region DVD player and a European release version if the Kultur release was as "horrible" as some of the reviews indicated, but thankfully this release proved satisfactory enough to avoid the cost and inconvenience of all that.
So until, hopefully one day, the higher quality versions of the European releases are made available to play on North American DVD players, I am happy to own and enjoy this release.
My main objection to this film -- and I seem to be the only one -- is to the horrendous sound balance. The orchestra pretty much overpowers the singers at all times, and the echo is unbelievable. It's as if the singers are at one end of a wind tunnel, and we're at the other, with the orchestra somewhere in the middle. In Act Two, shortly after Alagna's first entrance, when everyone is singing at once (including Gheorghiu outside) the result is mere cacophony. Perhaps it's my copy or my television -- but I don't have this problem with other opera DVDs. All in all, it's wonderful to have a visual record of Gheorhgiu's Tosca. But I can't recommend this as the perfect opportunity to HEAR the piece as I'm sure Puccini would have wanted us to.