Giacomo Puccini – Tosca
CAST: Floria Tosca: Maria Callas, Mario Cavaradossi: Renato Cioni, Vitellio Scarpia: Tito Gobbi, Spoletta: Robert Bowman, Cesare Angelotti: Victor Godfrey, Sciarrone: Dennis Wicks, Il carceriere: Edgar Boniface, Il sagrestano: Eric Garrett, Un pastore: David Sellar
Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
Chorus Master: Douglas Robinson
Carlo Felice Cillario, conductor
Warner Classics, 2005
Maria Callas’ Tosca in 1964
In 1964, Maria Callas recorded at the Royal Opera House in London one of her memorable Toscas. She was a veteran of the role at this stage of her career and her experience has a significant weight on this performance. Her Tosca can be compared to the one she recorded in 1953 for freshness and youthfulness, but this one is overall more refined. Of the previous Tosca, Callas retains her charm and vivacity in her scene with Cavaradossi in the first act, and also her outbursts of jealousy (again in the first act) as well as her pathos and intensity (duet with Scarpia, final scene). However, in the present recording the heroine is better defined and, on the whole, more coherent. The previous Tosca was much more impulsive and natural, but this one does not have those contradictions that made her less refined in the other recording.
For what concerns theatrical and vocal command, Callas is the same great singer-actress she has always been. The inflexions of her voice and accents, which only in few passages are too rushed (due certainly to the live performance), are as incisive and dramatic than usual. Her vocal precision is commendable. Every scene bears the stamp of Callas’ artistry. Vissi d’arte is almost a prayer for its resigned invocation, while Tosca’s fury when she stabs Scarpia is a really powerful moment. In short, Callas’ is always right in her choices.
Other Singers & Conduction
Renato Cioni is not the best Cavaradossi ever, but it is not difficult to appreciate his performance. Even though sometimes he is imprecise and rough and, during the scene in the second act, his way of singing is quite inelegant, he tries nonetheless to be smooth and, for the most part of the time, he succeeds.
Tito Gobbi, for his part, is the real embodiment of Scarpia. The lust, haughtiness and meanness of the character is constantly present in his stylish and insightful singing. Some exaggerations that from time to time undermine the finesse of his phrasing – though not pleasing – actually contribute to create an “aura” of disgust. This was, after all, Gobbi’s favourite role, which he sang count less times (opposite Callas again in 1953) and to which he dedicated a long paragraph in his autobiography My Life.
Carlo Felice Cillario’s conduction is reasonably good, never boring nor dull, although it does not distinguish itself for any brilliant exploits.