on 28 January 2002
This account of Tosca, using Rome as a backdrop, is escellent for both singing and acting. Kabaivanska is a winning Tosca, both in voice and appearance. Domingo is the perfect Cavaradossi but Sherrill Milnes' Scarpia is outstanding. His characterisation exudes corrupt power, suavity and lust. The whole production is very strong theatrically and musically, with scenes on location (except Palazzo Farnese). There is an 'all location' version of Tosca but this is its equal in cast and performance. This is taken from a 1976 video so there's not many 'extras' just Tracklist for individual Acts and subtitles in English French German Spanish and Chinese. The 'region 9' format sounds unusual but played without problem on my Region 2 player. Picture and sound quality (I only had stereo but there is surround) were excellent.
on 2 October 2009
This beautiful film was shot in the real settings of the story, and it is enchanting. Kaibavanska is in great voice, but Sherill Milne steals the day. His Machiavelli of a Scarpia exudes evil charisma and has the single-minded predatory approach of a hungry wolf. The best interpretation I have seen... his dark, silky menace makes Domingo's worthy Cavaradossi seem an unexiting alternative, despite a fine performance. Buy it and settle back to enjoy!
on 10 November 2010
This Deutsche Grammophon edition comes complete with descriptive notes and photographs. There are few superlatives left to lavish upon Puccini's music, and here the excellent reproduction conveys the unadulterated drama, and unequalled romanticism in breathtaking 5.1 DTS Surround Sound. The formidable talents of Placido Domingo as painter Mario Cavaradossi, Raina Kabaivanska, as the beautiful prima donna Floria Tosca, and Sherrill Milnes as Il Barone Scarpia the cunning chief of police, make this film an insurmountable dramatic experience.
The action based on a story by Victorien Sardou, takes place in June 1800, after the collapse of the temporary 'Roman Republic' set up by the French after a war with Italy when Rome was occupied. Cesare Angelotti (Giancarlo Luccardi) a consul, has escaped from the Castel Sant'Angelo, and is aided by Mario, painting a Madonna in the magnificent Church of Sant'Andrea della Valle. The diffident and amusing Sacristan (Alfredo Mariottti) is a foil to the romanticism of Mario, and the desparation of Angelotti. The punishment for Political prisoners, and their associates is death, and uncompromising Scarpia heads the secret police in the service of Queen Maria Carolina, to eradicate any Republican spirit. Floria Tosca, about to sing in a victory concert, is in love with Mario, and Scarpia also desires Tosca, so there is more to play for than the capture of a political prisoner.
The New Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Bruno Bartoletti with The Ambrosian singers render the combination of religious and dramatic music to perfection, and Directed by Gianfranco De Bosio, Scarpia sings his evil plot against the background of a Mass and a fateful death knell. Tremendous.
Tosca appears first in a lovely 'Empire line' cream satin and white and lace dress, unaware of the intrigue Mario is involved with, and Scarpia makes her doubt Mario's fidelity, by producing a fan which was hidden under an altar with clothes to disguise Cesare Angelotti. In Act 2 set in the upper floor of Palazzo Farnese, she wears a sumptuous black brocade, sequinned and shimmering and pale grey satin gown with a long train, designed like the sets, by Giancarlo Pucci.
Here in Scarpia's quarters, she pleads for the life of her captured loved one, and extolls her virtue and goodness, and begs for safe conduct, but stabs Scarpia, rather than be his lover in exchange.
This is the ultimate film version, and not a film of a stage production.
Act three opens with a rustic scene outside the Castel Sant'Angelo, and Placido Domingo Junior singing the part of a shepherd boy. A great deal of the credit for the success of this film must go to Luigi Vegra, director of photography and Giorgio Aureli, Camera; and the stunning shots of the closing scenes on the execution tower of the prison match the passion of the music. Here the final irony is delivered when Mario's mock execution is real, the safe conduct note is useless, Scarpia's murder is discovered, and Floria Tosca flings herself from the tower.
on 13 July 2005
Beautifully filmed in the Roman Locations specified by Puccini this is a complete success. Kabaivanska was said to be the greatest Tosca of her generation and this film catches her in her absolute prime. Although there are several recordings of her performing Tosca, the live performances with Carreras (1976) and Pavarotti (1990), Kabaivanska is even finer on DVD. Her interacting with Domingo is great. Plácido Domingo is magnificent; he looks and sings in such a way that he really 'becomes' Cavaradossi (This probably sounds clichéd but I do not know a better way of describing how perfectly he gets into character). Sherrill Milnes is a superb Scarpia. This film conveys his virile voice and distinctive acting skills that made him so loved at the Met. Finally, the Orchestra with Bartoletti is very fine, especially when heard in such clear and vivid stereo sound.
on 2 January 2010
As is well known, this was Bernard Shaw's description of the play by Sardou upon which this opera is based. And to be truly successful a performance of Tosca should be just that. If this DVD isn't wholly successful it is not for want of trying and there are very many good things in it.
Operas on DVD come in two main categories: they are either recordings of actual stage performances or (for lack of a better expression) "films". The advantage of a film is that the director has more freedom to interpret the action, and make it more realistic. This is a mixed blessing - after all in real life characters don't go around singing to each other!
Tosca is an opera which is well suited to a filmic approach. As opera plots go it is all too plausible. The action takes place precisely on 16/17 June 1800, and the historical background is correct (Even if Sardou had got that wrong Puccini, always a stickler for detail, would have corrected him. The composer researched the setting of the Te Deum which would have been sung in 1800 for use by him at the end of Act I. He climbed to the top of the Castel early one morning so that he could hear the bells sounding across Rome and correctly incorporate them into the Prelude to Act III. And he also insisted on altering the ending because it would be physically impossible to jump from the Castel Sant'Angelo to the Tiber - as Sardou had implied in his play.)
Having said that Puccini was pedantic over detail it is a pity that in this film there are a few details which could have been improved (caution: contains spoilers. If anyone doesn't want to know the plot they should skip the rest of this paragraph!). If Tosca thinks she has stabbed Scarpia through the heart she has a woeful lack of knowledge of anatomy. And whilst the last thing I would want would be a blood-fest there is very little from Scarpia's fatal wound. As indeed there is on Cavaradossi's face after he has been tortured: after all, according to Scarpia, the blood "is spurting from his temples". And the colour of the blood looks all wrong, too. Now this might not matter so much in a stage performance but this film is supposed to be fairly realistic. I wouldn't have thought that in 1976, when the recording was made, a little more blood would have given viewers a fit of the vapours. And, whilst on a sadistic note, Cavaradossi's cries of agony sound quite tame compared with those I have heard in some other performances. Finally, at the end of Act II, Tosca is supposed not only to place a crucifix on Scarpia's chest (which she does) but also place two lighted candles by the side of his head. In this performance she doesn't do so - why not?
That's enough criticism. In almost every other way this is a wonderful production. Domingo and Kabaivanska, as Cavaradossi and Tosca, are outstanding both in their singing, appearance, and acting. All of the other characters are good as well. Sherrill Milnes does not look evil, but then his Scarpia is a real person, not a pantomime villain. We often see things which couldn't be included in a stage production, like when characters enter or leave buildings, and the camera from time to time lingers briefly on the beautiful buildings and skyline of Rome. But this is never overdone, and only serves to enhance the action. The director does not try to be "clever" or over-interpret what is a strong story line.
So this is a very recommendable performance: not perfect, but then (as I have commented elsewhere) nothing is perfect. In my opinion it is much better than the generally-well-thought-of Alagna/Gheorghiu version which, apart from all else, suffers from some poor lip-synch and is ruined by the interpolation of some black-and-white sequences of the singers in the studio.
on 1 October 2007
I am afraid I agree with Mel C. I came to this video expecting great things from Milnes, whom I much admire, only to be gravely disappointed and unmoved. Kabaivanska is adequte, but no more than that: on balance I prefer Behrens (and I don't much like her in the role!) Domingo, as always, as Cavardossi, does a great job and the settings and decent matching of soundtrack to film do add to the overall effect. But the ideal modern 'Tosca' has yet to come: perhaps I have been spoiled by Callas/Gobbi/Pretre.