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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The disc might merit the 5th star, but ..., 2 Oct. 2006
Plaza Marcelino (Caracas Venezuela) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Tosca [1961] [DVD] (DVD)
... the Cavaradossi, a tenor called Eugene Tobin whom I didn't know of, conspires against my granting it outright, as he is simply of a lower level than Tebaldi's or London's. The stage production itself also contributes, out of its own anodyne-ness. But let's not complain too much: we are to thank heavens for the fact that this video tape was kept in the vaults of SDR, the South German Broadcasting Corp., and survived in such a good condition four decades of storage for it allows us to see a legend of 20th century opera singing in one of her signature roles, in full command of her conditions and in a complete performance at that. From the other great Tosca of the times, Maria Callas, we only have the second act, in two separate performances that I know of (are there more stashed away in the archives of some european TV station or opera house?) but her vocal conditions in those two videos were not the most adequate, even in the earlier of the two, her Paris debut. She of course was the better actress (Tebaldi's suffering of Polio infection in her childhood reputedly limited her stage movements, according to critics) but "La signorina"'s voice was unique and in a class of its own, far more subtle and cultivated than Callas's. George London was a masterful Scarpia, a nasty impersonation with a master's degree in cynicism, and he proved also a very accomplished actor; his voice was enormous, powerful as perhaps none other of his generation. Both he and Tebaldi are featured in Decca's late 1950's stereo recording to good effect, accompanied by Del Monaco's short on subtlety Cavaradossi. Callas is, of course much better served in the rightfully legendary 1954 EMI recording than in the videos I made reference to, and far less well so in the 1964 stereo remake.

The rest of the cast are downright substandard: the Spoletta barely bothers to sing, preferring to speak many of his interventions, the Sacristan and Angelotti fare better but sing in some sort of semi-italian that would be booed today.

Patan' was well known, as was also his brother Giuseppe, as exponent of a tradition of opera conducting that was earned after hard work in the orchestra pit in provincial theatres in the deep Italian boot. That tradition hardly exists now. Sound is alright as is also the video image, rather fuzzy by today's standard but mind this dvd comes from a 1962 black and white video tape.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vocally Magnificent, 31 Dec. 2011
Trev-R (Boston UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Tosca [1961] [DVD] (DVD)
Why would anyone spend just under £30 for a single black and white mono DVD? More than double I would normally spend on a blu-ray. The answer is that Renata Tebaldi is vocally the finest soprano that is available on any visual media format and George London is one of the top 3 Scarpia's.

If you are new to this opera and you are planning your first purchase you may want to consider buying a more up to date Tosca in colour and stereo to allow you to get to know the opera. I am only saying this because of the technical constraints in place when this version was recorded necessitating the viewer to make allowances especially visually. Puccini: Tosca [Blu-ray] [2011] is a good option if you have blu-ray. At the time of writing this review the Covent Garden 2011 Tosca with Kaufmann, Terfel and Gheorghiu had not been released on DVD. This will be the modern Tosca of choice.

Renata Tebaldi is just as famous for her long standing animosity between her and Maria Callas as she is for her singing. Famously Callas was (mis)quoted in Time magazine comparing herself as champagne to Ms Tebaldi as Coca Cola. (it was actually Cognac). Tebaldi is at her prime in this production, her voice is absolutely superb, her 'Vissi d'arte' is exquisite and every bit as good as Callas's. Visually she is quite a stocky woman and not as attractive as Callas or in modern times Angela Gheorghiu. However if you are a fan of Tosca you will be able to see through the visuals to the vocals that make Ms Tebaldi so spectacular.

George London is probably best remembered for touring with Mario Lanza and Francis Yeend as part of the Bel Canto Trio (1947-48) and for appearing in an abridged version of Act 2 of Tosca with Callas on the Ed Sullivan TV show. In this performance of Tosca his voice is dark, rich and penetrating while being smooth and without any roughness. His acting is excellent and he makes an extremely believable Scarpia.

Eugene Tobin who plays Cavaradossi was unknown to me before this recording. He sings the role with conviction but is not in the same class as Tebaldi or London. However this is not necessarily a bad thing as it emphasises how good the other two are. His performance is quite adequate and it does not interfere with the enjoyment of this production.

Video quality is OK and watch able, lighting is for the theatre and not video so can be quite harsh in places. There is also so vignetting on the left side of the picture.

Sound quality is good considering the singers are not miked up and just occasionally you do get a drop in volume as the singer turns away from the recording microphone.
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Tosca [1961] [DVD]
Tosca [1961] [DVD] by Renata Tebaldi (DVD - 2002)
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