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Customer reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars

on 15 April 2001
Tosca's long running popularity with the public is reflected in the large number of recorded versions available. Alongside Callas under De Sabata and Price under Karajan, Caballe's account has gained classic status as an interpretation that is special. No other singer has brought such ravishingly beautiful singing to the role. In addition, Caballe gives a compelling portrayal of Tosca and highlights the full range of emotions that the role demands. In Act I, Caballe conveys the shift from deep passion to blind rage and shattered emotions spectacularly. In Act II one can hear the disgust and desperation in her voice as she bargains with Scarpia over her lover's fate. Caballe is partnered by Jose Carerras as Cavaradossi. He too is in magnificent voice and gives one of his finest recorded performances - far better than his two later recordings of the role. The only disappointment is Ingvar Wixell as Scarpia. While he sings impeccably, his interpretation lacks menace and he fails to dominate the opera as any Scarpia should. A plus point however, is that Wixell avoids the hammy theatricals that so many other Scarpias employ- thus turning Scarpia into a pantomime figure. In this respect he is far preferable to Giuseppe Taddei on the Karajan set. Colin Davis conducts the score naturally and without exaggerated tempi and the ROH forces play superbly. The 1953 Callas version, worth hearing if only for Tito Gobbi's towering interpretation of Scarpia, has long been regarded as the deinitive account. However, that recording, despite remastering, does sound dated in mono sound and is, like so many Callas recordings, grossly overpriced, especially when the Caballe recording, alongside performances of the title role by Tebaldi, Scotto, and Milanov can be enjoyed on other labels at mid price. For value and for Caballe's unforgettable performance, the Phillips set is a fantastic buy.
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on 26 October 2010
I really like the Domingo, Malfitano, Raimondi DVD of Tosca, but this is my favourite CD version. Carreras was at the peak of his career and his beautiful singing here reminds you of why he was once considered one of the best tenors in the world. It is also one of Caballe's best ever recordings. Sir Colin Davis, as always, conducts perfectly.

This double CD is astoundingly good value. My advice is, buy it. You won't be disappointed.
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on 30 August 2012
The best Tosca one can get after the 1953 Callas recording. Monserrat Caballe has one of the most beautiful soprano voices ever. In this recording she also takes the risk in using it in the most dramatic of manners. And she succeeds. Unlike her Norma, her Tosca has nothing less than the perfect 1953 Callas recording. She is a lyrical soprano no doubt about it, but her voice can be clearly heard in the totality of its range, despite the heavy Puccini orchestration (unlike Ms Gheorghiu's instrument). There is nothing forced or strained in the way she sings. The woman has a huge voice and is the only one to be rightly compared to Callas in terms of repertoire. She is also very lucky to have Carreras by her side. Jose Carreras is in his absolute prime, before his illness and his cross over experiments. He is the best Cavaradossi ever in the recorded history of the role. The ideal Mario probably looks like Kaufmann and sounds like Carreras. The set is very competitively priced as well. If you want a stereo Tosca alternative, this is the one to have.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 18 October 2016
It has taken me many years to get around to sampling this recording, mainly because I have, like so many, been wedded for so long to the unrivalled Callas-Di Stefano-Gobbi classic and more obvious choices featuring artists such as Price and Tebaldi. There have not in fact been so many studio recordings of this opera compared with other equally popular works and I find myself enjoying slightly off-beat versions such as that Rostropovich with Vishnevskaya and Muti conducting Vaness. I also recently discovered how good the supposedly very inferior later recording by Callas with Bergonzi actually is.

This is certainly not the most visceral and thrilling of recordings; beauty is the watchword and I don't think I have ever heard the orchestral passages played with greater sonority and clarity than the ROH orchestra achieves here. It is true that under pressure Caballé's tone can turn a bit harsh and squally but I hear no lack of involvement in her characterisation and her soft singing is of course a dream. Some have criticised Wixell's Scarpia as insufficiently Italianate but I find him very convincing as a sadistic psychopath, even if his slightly gritty tone precludes the kind of elegance and suavity that Gobbi or Manuguerra bring to the role. Other great advantages to this set reside in the excellent cameo by Sam Ramey as Angelotti - one of the few who bothers to pant and sound exhausted in his entry, despite the rotundity of his bass-baritone.

But the glory here is Carreras in his all-too-brief prime, rivalling any Cavarodossi for passion and power; his sustained top notes are thrilling and his commitment really intense. On my first encounter with his "Recondita armonia" I simply had to play it again immediately, and I haven't experienced that sensation since the first time I heard Björling sing that brief but wondrous aria.

The supporting cast is first rate and the analogue sound is superlative, even if it permits you all too clearly to hear the conductor already indulging in his annoying habit of singing along, a tendency of his which markedly worsened as the years went by.
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on 2 January 2008
Competitive in all respects, not least in the modest outlay needed. Sorry to sound mercenary, but with the great number of versions available, many of them extremely good (Price, Freni, even Te Kanawa) it is important to consider the cost, especially when the version under consideration is as wonderful as this one. Caballe is in her element: impassioned when required, tender when needed and, above all, singing in glorious voice - great waves of burnished tone and those famous pianissimi! Carreras is similarly inspired (who would not be, with Caballe on this form?) and they sing together with enormous sensitivity and power. Colin Davis gives for me the best interpretation on disc: passionate but, at the same time, controlled (it's so easy to go OTT with this potboiler of an opera!) But it's mainly all magnificent stuff. The only slight disappointment is Wixell's Scarpia, which lacks the snarl and allure of, say Sherril Milnes on the Freni/Pavarotti version (and his peerless glowing tone).
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on 15 July 2014
In my view, this is the strongest Tosca recording available.

Caballe/Carreras/Wixell - what a dream team, and all rounded off with Colin Davis' wonderful conducting.

People will now hate me for putting this recording over Callas/diStefano - but I do and I will any day.

Caballe, here caught in her prime, delivers the vocally most stunning performance of Tosca imaginable. If it is melting lyricism in the tender moments of act I that you are looking for as well as strong drama in act II with a rock solid voice and technique from the low register up to the resounding top C in he last act, she will not disappoint you. Her Vissi d'arte is a marvel of sound and sheer breath control and she manages to sound beautiful throughout the entire opera, especially so in her encounter with Scarpia in act I.
Also Carreras is in excellent voice and even if Wixell might not be the most menacing of Scarpias, he sounds very good, especially so in his reading of "Ha piu forte sapore".

This is a legendary recording that should not miss in any collection, especially at this rock bottom price; to me this is the Tosca that all others will be measured against.
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on 3 September 2004
This CD is magical. Carreras is young and ardent, Caballe is swooningly beautiful and the rest of the cast is very, very strong. Davis conducts throughout with considerable effect. A superb bargain.
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on 11 March 2013
I love Tosca and this recording is lovely. The performances and recording are glorious. The recording quality is excellent to my ear. I really enjoy listening to this production and the music is of course sublime!
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on 18 February 2013
The recordings were not good enough in my opinion, not a lot else to say, would not recommend.
If you Tosca try another of Amazons excellent selections
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 23 April 2014
This remains one of my favourite recordings of Tosca. Caballe's account is intensely beautiful and dramatically projected. Her vissi d'arte is dramatically convincing if not as intensely dramatic as the famous Callas reading, but is for me a very moving account and sung with such beauty that I return to it as frequently as I do the Callas/De Sabata recording. Carreras is at the peak of his form and I find that Wixell as Scarpia is a powerful presence and, for me, not as weak as some reviewers consider, even though Gobbi and Milnes have recorded more fascinating portraits in their respective recordings.

Davis conducts a thrilling, finely paced, account and is well supported by all his singers and orchestra. This remains an impressively engineered recording. This disc in this release does not come with a libretto which is not an issue for me but it may be available in a reissue with libretto. As a performance it is up there in my top handful of distinctive recordings of this opera.
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