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on 23 November 2010
The filmed legacy of Callas is not extensive so we should be grateful for all we have. These performances from the early sixties were made when she was in semi-retirement from the stage (blame Aristotle Onassis!), with concerts predominating over appearances in opera, and the voice noticeably winding down - probably as much through lack of practice and motivation as anything else. Yet her phrasing and musicality are never in doubt - her Carmen arias alluring (she never sang the role on stage, and I think that shows, not least in the jumbled words), the Don Carlos appropriately tragic (here, though, she is in competition with her unforgettable rendition from a Hamburg concert three years earlier, fortunately also preserved on film), and of course the famous Tosca Act II complete, with Gobbi in equally exciting form. All Puccini fans will want to have that performance, and all Callas fans know already that these are 'must have' recordings. Even those who don't care for the actual sound of the voice will (I think) agree on the musicianship and commitment that she brought to all of her performances; and for those who see a premature decline resulting from a flawed technique, at least remember that she was singing Santuzza at the age of 15, Tosca before she was out of her teens, Fidelio, then after the war Gioconda, Turandot, Isolde, Brünnhilde (the last immediately followed by Elvira in Bellini's Puritani!), Aida, Norma, Trovatore, Traviata, Lucia, Sonnambula, and all the rest - and in this DVD we see her still knocking out a wonderful Tosca at age 40. That isn't a short career for a dramatic soprano!
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on 1 October 2007
This is a conflation of two rare televised appearances of Callas from Covent Garden. The first was filmed in 1962 and Callas is in surprisingly good voice, considering she had almost given up at this time (her only other appearances that year were a series of concerts - no stage appearances at all). The Verdi is sung with a wealth of detail and expression and she acts out all Elisabetta'a emotions vividly, while hardly moving a muscle. Indeed she is so immersed in her singing that when a large brooch she is wearing dislodges and drops to the floor, she barely notices. She then changes completely into a playful, sexy and dangerous Carmen. What a pity she never wanted to sing the role on stage.
The second part of the DVD is a fully staged performance of Act2 of Tosca with Tito Gobbo and Renato Cioni. Why oh why didn't they have the forseight to film the whole thing? Still I guess we should be grateful for what we have. There are faults - the camera work isn't all it should be - but this is surely the most riveting perofrmance of this act ever committed to film.True, Callas was in better voice when she filmed this same Act in Paris a few years previously (some of the top notes are little better than screams), but I have rarely, if ever, seen opera singers act with such naturalness and abandon. Both Callas and Gobbi are superb. You really forget they are singing and end up being totally drawn in to the performance of two actors. In fact I remember that on the days I worked at the English National Opera shop, whenever we played this video when the audience were gathering for that evening's performance, the tiny little shop would quickly fill up with people who couldn't take their eyes off the television screens. Enough said!
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on 9 March 2009
Everything was fine with the video. the box was broken, but sent when it was freezing hard, so that was probably inevitable. I have no complaints.
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The 1962 appearance is more like the best of. We hear:
Verdi: Don Carlo (Atto IV) Tu che le vanita
Bizet: Carman
Prelude
Jabanera (Acte I)
Entr'acte (Acte III)
Séguedille (Acte I)

Watching Maria adds a detention missed in

Puccini's Tosca (alto II), 1964 will hold your attention; however I am glad that there are subtitles as I only knew the story form secondary sources. Dennis Wicks as Sciarrone looks like Arty Johnson. This is a long scene however it is not the complete story. So as with the 1962 section this is the best of.

The advantage to this recording is that there are no commercials it gets down to business. The disadvantage is the recording is not well focused.

Be sure to obtain the RMI classics CD's of Callas so you can carry her with you.
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on 12 March 2004
This DVD is now available in UK without regional coding and is PAL compatible. I bought this DVD for Act 2 of Tosca and I was totally bowled over by the intensity of the performance. Both Callas and Gobbi are superb and the interplay between the two is almost telepathic. Not only are two marvellous singers at work but they show themselves to be first rate actors too. Scarpia is a sexual predator, corrupt, vicious, duplicitous but Gobbi makes him much more than just a masochistic pantomine villain - the character appalls you but he is strangely likeable too - very odd and disturbing! As the camera usually lingers on the faces of the singers, you get the full force of Gobbi's characterisation - he has the most expressive eyebrows of any opera singer I have seen! Callas shows the despair of Tosca as she slowly realises how evil Scarpia is. The look of shock on her face as she eventually realises the nature of the deal Scarpia is offering her is electrifying. Vissi d'arte is magical and all the more effective by not being followed by clamourous applause. Also very effective is the scene after Tosca has dispatched Scarpia - no singing just pure acting. A special mention for the staging and lighting which add to the overall impact. Cavaradossi is perfectly adequate but has little to do in this act. Also on the disc is a Callas gala performance - the highlights here are the selections from Carmen. Picture and sound quality are both good considering the recordings were originally made for TV in the early 60s and subtitles are included if you need them.
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on 4 October 2005
This is a conflation of two rare televised appearances of Callas from Covent Garden. The first was filmed in 1962 and Callas is in surprisingly good voice, considering she had almost given up at this time (her only other appearances that year were a series of concerts - no stage appearances at all). The Verdi is sung with a wealth of detail and expression and she acts out all Elisabetta'a emotions vividly, while hardly moving a muscle. Indeed she is so immersed in her singing that when a large brooch she is wearing dislodges and drops to the floor, she barely notices. She then changes completely into a playful, sexy and dangerous Carmen. What a pity she never wanted to sing the role on stage.
The second part of the DVD is a fully staged performance of Act2 of Tosca with Tito Gobbo and Renato Cioni. Why oh why didn't they have the forseight to film the whole thing? Still I guess we should be grateful for what we have. There are faults - the camera work isn't all it should be - but this is surely the most riveting perofrmance of this act ever committed to film.True, Callas was in better voice when she filmed this same Act in Paris a few years previously (some of the top notes are little better than screams), but I have rarely, if ever, seen opera singers act with such naturalness and abandon. Both Callas and Gobbi are superb. You really forget they are singing and end up being totally drawn in to the performance of two actors. In fact I remember that on the days I worked at the English National Opera shop, whenever we played this video when the audience were gathering for that evening's performance, the tiny little shop would quickly fill up with people who couldn't take their eyes off the television screens. Enough said!
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on 13 December 2009
Possibly the most outstanding film of a live operatic performance that has ever been made, despite its technical shortcomings. This is Act II from the sensational production of 'Tosca' directed by Franco Zeffirelli at Covent Garden in 1964. Both Maria Callas (Tosca) and Tito Gobbi (Scarpia) had been inspired to bring fresh, original, and realistic qualities to their characterisation of these famous roles, and, once seen, their exceptional singing and acting in this performance of Act II are impossible to forget.

This is operatic theatre at its height. The setting for this Act is powerfully effective: a magnificent chamber dominated by an immense fireplace, the flames creating a lurid, demonic light. It is like an antechamber to hell. Callas wore a superb dress of flowing, blood-red velvet, and she was never more marvellous to look at. Nor was the murder of Scarpia more climactic. The atmosphere is continuously gripping, haunting, and quite unforgettable. Every sung phrase, every moment, is made to count, and the tension is electric. Callas as a stage artist had the extraordinary gift of making an operatic performance feel more real than real life.

This film deserves to be in the collection of everyone who relishes opera as drama; will anything so effective in Puccini's opera be seen again? This is one of the most memorable cultural documents of the 20th century.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 28 January 2012
I am not really a fan of Callas but appreciate her importance in the overall history of opera in the 20th Century. This DVD is a 'must have' not only for her fans but also for those who want to hear one of the finest voices of the past 100 years, be it at a time when she wasn't at her very best and (Tosca) a year before the end of her final stage performances again in the role of Tosca, with Gobbi and Corelli at the ROH and Tucker at the Met.

I don't want to comment on Callas' voice as I feel it is so unique that you have to make your own mind up. However I don't think anyone other than the hypercritical will be disappointed. In my opinion one of the most important features of the Tosca is how it shows her relationship with Tito Gobbi with whom she made 8 complete recordings and who was a close personal friend.

I have compared the Tosca Act II with the 1961 Tebaldi/London/Tobin version Tosca [1961] [DVD] and prefer the singing of Tebaldi, however Tebaldi and London do not have the same chemistry as Callas and Gobbi so overall the Callas/Gobbi version is the most pleasing. I just wish the ROH had made a complete recording of the 1965 production.

Regarding the rest of the DVD. The Don Carlo is OK but highlights some of her vocal weaknesses. The Carmen again is OK but not as good as her recording 2 years later with Gedda where her voice has regained some of its earlier quality.
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on 28 January 2014
Very good quality, totally meeting my expectations, a delight to all my senses, as expected from Maria Callas. Always a pleasure.
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on 16 February 2013
Have owned this film and sound track in every format imaginable since 1964. Good to have it now on DVD.
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