Giacomo Puccini – Tosca
Floria Tosca: Montserrat Caballé, Mario Cavaradossi: José Carreras, Vitellio Scarpia: Ingwar Wixell, Spoletta: Piero de Palma, Cesare Angelotti: Samuel Ramey, Sciarrone/Carceriere: William Elvin, Il sagrestano: Domenico Trimarchi, Un pastore: Ann Murray
Orchestra e Coro della Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
Chorus master: Richard Amner
Sir Colin Davis, conductor
In the immense discography of Giacomo Puccini’s opera Tosca, the present recording distinguishes itself for its outstanding cast and remarkable conduction.
Montserrat Caballé (Tosca)
Montserrat Caballé is one of the most delicate Toscas ever recorded, and a fabulous one. Her voice, so rich and soft, gives prominence to all the lyricism and charm of her character. Her Tosca is an ideal character, but, differently from other interpreters, Caballé is able to add warmth to her idealization. Her Tosca is never distant, but she seems constantly to address the audience, to look for it. She does not ignore Tosca’s jealousy, which so effectively colours her scene with Cavaradossi in the first act.
In the second act, Caballé is really mesmerizing. Her sense of abandonment and disillusion immediately arouses pity and cannot leave anyone indifferent – except Scarpia, of course. Vissi d’arte is an angelical prayer, sang by one of the most beautiful voices of the last century. In this act, as well as in the third, Caballé never lets herself go with inelegant utterances, but she always maintains her grace. It is from this perfection that she draws her strength. Rarely this role has been performed with such smoothness and refinement.
José Carreras (Cavaradossi)
José Carreras is equally outstanding as Cavaradossi. It must be said that him and Caballé are an ideal couple for Tosca. In fact, Carreras brings to the character of Cavaradossi the purity and luminosity of his elegant voice, which is really a delight to listen when it soars in Recordita armonia. His elegant phrasing, combined with right accents and inflections, makes possible to portray a vibrant, intense character who has unheard-of incisiveness and strength.
Ingwar Wixell (Scarpia)
For his part, Ingwar Wixell brings vocal clarity to Scarpia. His rendition of the dissolute Baron is noteworthy for the unusual elegance with which the singer characterizes him. In fact, Wixell’s Scarpia is much more sophisticated – and, in the end, more subtly cruel – than that of other singers. This character really seems a man of noble origins who is irremediably debauched. Listen for example to his Ha più forte sapore, where Wixell exalts the acts of violence with a gusto that makes it even more repulsive than it usually is. Definitely, this is a great character sung by a great interpreter.
Colin Davis’ Conduction
Colin Davis’ conduction is the last fine trait of the present Tosca. Although at times his tempos are quite slow, on the whole his conduction is crisp, effective, and fluid. Puccini’s music flows lightly, and in the pivotal passages it is always overwhelming. Listen for example to the imposing, solemn Te Deum at the end of the first act, or to the bustle of the Tosca-Scarpia scene, or to the dramatic excitement of the last scene.