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Puccini: Tosca
     

Puccini: Tosca

by Maria Callas
 
In 1959, Maria Callas met Aristotle Onassis, and from that moment on it could be said that her life took a distinct downward turn. She left her husband, Battista Meneghini, and drastically curtailed her performance schedule. Indeed, as John Steane's booklet note points out, when Callas sang this series of performances of Puccini's

Overview

In 1959, Maria Callas met Aristotle Onassis, and from that moment on it could be said that her life took a distinct downward turn. She left her husband, Battista Meneghini, and drastically curtailed her performance schedule. Indeed, as John Steane's booklet note points out, when Callas sang this series of performances of Puccini's Tosca in January and February 1964, she had not appeared in an operatic production for some 18 months (though she did sing several recitals in the meantime). One can only imagine the excitement that greeted the diva's return -- and in an opera with which she was so closely associated. Here, in quite decent stereo sound, is the performance from January 24th. From her first cries of "Mario!", Callas is clearly in her element. True, some of the high notes are wobbly, but she embodies the character so fully that one can easily forgive such relatively minor vocal shortcomings. Every line she sings has meaning, and each is given a unique color. She is matched in her vocal and dramatic acuity by Tito Gobbi, undoubtedly the Scarpia of his day. Without resorting to vocal trickery, he conveys a sense of immense and dark evil. Renato Cioni is not the heartiest of Cavaradossis, but he sings sweetly and affably enough; Callas certainly sang and recorded with far worse tenors. The orchestra plays beautifully for Carlo Felice Cillario, who squeezes plenty of drama from Puccini's ever-popular score. No, this shouldn't supersede Callas's famous studio recording (again with Gobbi) under Victor de Sabata, but it is a memento of what must have been a tremendously exciting and satisfying night at the opera.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Allen Schrott
In the early '60s, Maria Callas' mystique was in full bloom, but her career was in question, marred by frequent absences and cancellations. This 1964 production of "Tosca" was a triumph, however, showing her detractors that her voice was still intact, and reinforcing her fans' belief that she was the ideal diva -- brilliant of voice, and convincing on-stage. "Tosca" was the perfect role for Callas; she was the personification of the diva she played on-stage, and her acting brought an excitement to the part that few sopranos have equaled. This performance does show signs of vocal wear -- high passages have lost their bloom and taken on a slow wobble -- but it also has her more possessed of herself as an artist than she was even in her famous performances from the 1950s. Her "Vissi d'arte" alone is enough to show her command of music and the stage. The sound quality is better than her live performances from Mexico. Even non-Callas fans will be interested in this "Tosca," largely for the callous and magnetic Scarpia of Tito Gobbi, who is at his best here. Many baritones have brought bigger and more beautiful baritone voices to bear, but Gobbi had a special feel for this part -- how to realize a loathsome man in music while remaining real and human. Renato Cioni makes a good Cavaradossi, although not on the level of his co-stars. Carlo Felice Cillario's musical leadership is excellent, resulting in a much tidier and compelling orchestral sound than is found in many live recordings, especially from that era. This is probably not the right choice for a first or only "Tosca," but fans of Callas, or just fans of the opera will find a lot to enjoy here.

Product Details

Release Date:
11/04/2003
Label:
Emi Classics
UPC:
0724356267527
catalogNumber:
62675

Related Subjects

Tracks

  1. Tosca, opera  - Giacomo Puccini  - Maria Callas  - Giuseppe Giacosa  - Edgard Boniface  - Carlo Felice Cillario  - Renato Cioni  - Eric Garrett  - Tito Gobbi  - Victor Godfrey  - Luigi Illica  -  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Chorus and Orchestra  - Joan Sutherland  -  Royal Opera House Chorus Covent Garden  - David Sellar  - Georgina Ward  - Dennis Wicks  - Robert Bowman

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