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Puccini: Tosca (Sung In English)

Puccini: Tosca (Sung In English)

1 Apr 1996
3.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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For some reason I was not impressed very much by the English language narrative of Puccin's Tosca compared to it's original Italian language which iniself is part of the whole story.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars 7 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Bit Too British for Me 26 Sept. 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I'm intrigued by opera in English because when done well, the immediacy of the words really hit me with more impact than in the original language. But most operas seem to work better in the vernacular they were written in. Eaglen sings an excellent Tosca. She's more at home in the role than I expected. But I really had to give this recording * for Eaglen. It's well recorded, conducted effectively but the general effect seems to lack power. The other soloists do an adequate job. This is not recording I would go back to very often and even sold off my copy.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bravo to Eaglen 18 Jan. 2000
By Daniel Mitrano - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Although the "Opera in English" series is already an excellent and frankly overdue undertaking, bravo to Jane Eaglen for bringing the whole series to a new level. She gloriously confirms that opera in English isn't just for second string (but excellent) British and American singers, it is art to be taken seriously and should also be sung by major international voices. (Jerry Hadley has done the same with all those marvelous Lehar operetta recordings in English with Bonynge--keep 'em coming.) Eaglen sails through this performance with total security and abandon, never sacrificing a chance to wield a masterful interpretation that stands on ground with all the great Toscas. She inspires the other participants to do the same (notice how the performance doesn't really catch fire until the second act when she's the focus). O'Neill, excellent and passionate, contrasts Eaglen's cool-blue timbre with his own Italiante, if a little "blond" timbre. Gregory Yurisich is a shattering but believable Scarpia, cleanly vocalized. The supporting cast is adequate except for the boy treble Shepherd who sounds nervous and has questionable pitch. As usual, Parry's conducting is first rate and brings out the drama as well as warmth in the score. I cannot recommend this set more--even to those who would normally turn their nose up at an English translation.
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the better Chandos recordings 17 Oct. 2005
By BDSinC - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Again opera in English. Most of it has left me cold, but not because of uninvolved singers or orchestra or chorus, just because the diction is usually simply horrible. This recording, however, is much better. It could be because the published translation is used (what is known as a "singable translation" rather than a literal translation). Because of this fact, vowels that are much too hard to sing on higher notes in English are not sung. Rather, words are used so that vowels more workable to high notes are sung.

As for the singers themselves, unlike some think, I think Jane Eaglen is wonderful. I really enjoy how Chandos captures the voices of their singers. They do such a masterful job, and we are able to really enjoy the sound, and it is a more natural sound. Eaglen now has the incredible sound one hears in the theatre, filled with warmth, and with just the correct amount of ring to it. That hollow empty sound one gets in her Sony recordings is gone (and we are all the more thankful for that, but then, I am not that impressed with Sony and their recording balance anyway). As to her interpretation, I find it stunning. No, she is not Maria Callas, and I am glad she is not trying to be. I love Callas in the role (in both her studio recordings and in a few live performances I have -- though in life, her voice is much smaller than it appears in studio recordings). Yet, I love to hear what other singers bring to this role when they are not trying to copy Callas. Eaglen is very vital in the role. We are hearing an "opera singer" and she is very believable. Her jealousy is very touching in the first act, not raving as some portray it (and which is actually overdoing it), but poignant. We feel a woman, a woman who is very lacking in confidence, not in her talent, but in her ability to capture the heart of the man she loves. Tosca's jealousy is not because her lover has strayed or been unfaithful in any way, it is because she fears she cannot keep him interested in herself. That aspect of her character is seldom captured, yet, Eaglen does capture that vulnerability. Scarpia uses that vulnerability to plant seeds of ever-growing doubt in her (so she leads him to Cavaradossi).

Her desperate plea to God in Visi d'arte (sung in English, obviously) is tender and subdued, as it is supposed to be. It is a prayer, not something for Scarpia to hear. Her heart-break at being "so poorly treated after such devotion" is deeply felt.

Sadly, her Cavaradossi is not so well served. O'Neil is a good tenor, and he must have had a super voice at one time. He certainly feels the drama of the music. He is just past his prime and the voice wobbles annoyingly too often. I find that takes a great deal from this performance. It often abscures what he is trying to do (and which he often does achieve), and I had to repeatedly listen to parts of the recording to discover what it was he was offering me. He is a great interpretor of music and of drama, he just is not as steady in production as he once was.

The singer who sang Scarpia didn't do a thing for me. He sang serviceably enough, but he just lacked that "je ne sais quoi" that Scarpia so desperately needs. He is a super evil man, but he has style, he has pinache, he has class. He is the type of man who could torture someone to death while prunning in front of the mirrow, calmly assessing his appearance. He is a clever manipulating man, and he knows how to get what he wants (and he manipulates Tosca as much as he can, until she can take no more and kills him).

All that seemed lacking to me. The man was evil, yes, he was powerful and dangerous, yes, but the subtleties of the character seemed to be totally missing. However, this said, I did still enjoy the performance and I could understand his words.

The rest of the characters just fade away to me, and not just in this recording, in most of them. They are there to move things forward, to announce some event, and that is about all. The shepherd boy didn't impress me at all, but since I really care less about that part of the actual drama, it really didn't both me that much.

Now to the conducting. I really love the conductors that conduct the works Chandos records in English. I really find their skills in working the orchestra amazing. I see where they are going with a work and they hold it together incredibly well. The details are all there, but nothing is forced to stand out too much. They know how to support the singers, and they do it extremely well, like they really like singers (something one is forced to wonder about many conductors).

The choral work in this opera is simply the finale of Act one, and the off stage cantata of Act 2. The Te Deum of act one is superb. Truly one must admit that English choirs are incredibly good and very accurate in what they do. However, what really impressed me was the off stage cantata. Usually it can sound like a lot of yells and squeeks (with Tosca sort of yelling above it). In this recording it is actually extremely musical and Eaglen's voice rides along with the chorus, not the usual fighting against it. This little touch is wonderful.

The real drama does not really develop until the second act, but then, that is when the real drama does develop. All things before that are nothing more than "prelude" to the real meat of the opera.

The end of the opera was great, but could have been a bit more intense for me. I really think this is the other place (the murder of Scarpia being the other) where this "shabby little shocker" is meant to really shock us. I just wasn't shocked quite enough.

I rated it only a four star because of the small flaws that sort of ruined some parts of the whole, but have to say, I truly enjoyed this recording (and that for me is extremely rare when listening to opera in English; the other Chandos recording that really blows my mind is Mozarts Idomeneo; this recording is incredible!). I would recommend it to anyone, even those who think opera must be sung only in the original language. This shows that sometimes it can be sung very effectively in the language of the people.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Jane Eaglen is the perfect Tosca! 27 April 2000
By James Walters - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Vocally Eaglen is the perfect Tosca. She matches beatiful tone with dramatic power. O'Neil does an acceptable job, the role seems to be a tad too dramatic for him.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome find 28 Oct. 2000
By Brian McClinton - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Being a fan of Jane Eaglen, I must admit that I was swept away with her in this recording. This is probably the best performance one can find of her, at this point. Part of a series of Operas sung in English, Tosca is a good recording. All were understandble most of the time, but when it comes to opera, I'm finding it's not whether or not one can understand what one is singing, but how well they sing it. Did not expect it to be as well done. Many people would turn their nose to the language change. Who care! Ms. Eaglen is marvelous here as she is in other venures. Particularly in the second half. Highly recommended!!
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