Learn more Shop now Learn more Shop now Shop now Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Learn more Shop Fire Shop Kindle Amazon Music Unlimited for Family Learn more Fitbit
Customer Review

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A squalid little shocker, 2 Jan. 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Tosca - Puccini [1976] [DVD] [2005] [NTSC] (DVD)
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking on the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in


Track comments by e-mail
Tracked by 1 customer

Sort: Oldest first | Newest first
Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 1 Apr 2013, 12:31:32 BST
I think that it was Joseph Kerman who described Tosca as "a shabby little shocker". Which, of course, it is. So why do I love it?

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Nov 2014, 18:49:35 GMT
Because you're not a strait-laced puritanical moralist like him? And realise that if all art were 'improving' the world would be a dull place?

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Nov 2014, 10:23:54 GMT
Really, it was a rhetorical question, but the only answer I thought might come up was "Because you've got execrable taste". I much prefer your answer, so thank you - I'll use it when defending my love of this work.
‹ Previous 1 Next ›

Review Details



Location: Shropshire, England

Top Reviewer Ranking: 63,158