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Notes and Editorial Reviews
This set was last reissued in 1997 in EMI’s Opera series. It now reappears on the cheaper CFP label, sans libretto. It is good to have Scotto’s Tosca available; she was unquestionably a great singing actress. As a reigning soprano at the Met during the 1970s she made a number of recordings under James Levine. In 1978 they teamed with Domingo to record his first Otello, and later made an unsuccessful La Bohème with Alfredo Kraus. In between came this Tosca.
At this time, it was the autumn of the soprano’s career. Her recording of Gilda in Rigoletto dates back to 1964, but by 1980 (when this performance was taped) her voice was hardening and becoming squally. She still had her pianissimo, but no longer seemed
comfortable anywhere between that and a forte above the stave, while her vibrato had widened and slowed noticeably. This ruled her out of court in the role of Mimi—a wobble inevitably suggests late middle age—but Tosca gets by on dramatic thrust, which was one of Scotto’s strengths. Her commitment to the moment in “Vissi d’arte” and elsewhere is tangible.
Unfortunately for Scotto, her vocal deterioration coincided with an era of early digital recording that provided its own extra glare and harshness, doing her no favors at all. That aspect has been tamed considerably in this remastering, but it is still there to some extent, affecting the brass and upper strings as well. The sound on the Decca set from Solti and Te Kanawa, made only five years later, is in another league altogether.
The rest of this performance is pretty good. Bruson is not a melodramatic Scarpia, but his mellifluous baritone makes for lovely listening. The great Te Deum concluding the first act slides by; it must be the least dramatic rendition I have ever heard. Bruson comes to life more in the second act. (After that he dies, of course.) Domingo is terrific, singing with a youthful, Italianate tone but plenty of lungpower when it’s needed. Can this be the same man who gave us that burnished, baritonal Tristan a couple of years ago? What an artist! He recorded Cavaradossi three times; this is his second recording and possibly the best, but Tosca is not the tenor’s opera. Nor is it the gaoler’s, though Perlman sings his two-note cameo with aplomb. The shepherd boy who opens act III (Dominick Martinez) sounds like a real ragazzo, not an English school chorister, which is nice. Levine moves the action along; his orchestra is tight and well balanced. I have already commented on the recording quality, which is strangely one-dimensional (though you soon get used to it).
Overall, this is a strong, even fierce performance (except from Bruson). Domingo is great, and Scotto, in spite of her incipient vocal difficulties, is not to be discounted. Today’s sopranos should show such visceral dedication. But there is a reason this is not an EMI “Great Recording of the Century,” and that reason’s name is Callas.
-- Phillip Scott, FANFARE [3/2008] Read less
Works on This Recording
Tosca by Giacomo Puccini
Placido Domingo (Tenor),
John Cheek (Bass),
Renato Bruson (Baritone),
Renata Scotto (Soprano),
Renato Capecchi (Baritone),
Dominick Martinez (Boy Alto),
Itzhak Perlman (Bass),
Paul Hudson (Bass),
Andrea Velis (Tenor)
Ambrosian Opera Chorus,
St. Clement Danes Grammar School Boys Choir
Written: 1900; Italy
Venue: Kingsway Hall, London, England
Length: 116 Minutes 19 Secs.
Notes: Kingsway Hall, London, England (07/29/1980 - 08/11/1980)
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Fine Tosca September 13, 2015
By Christopher D. (Kokomo, IN) See All My Reviews
"This is the recording I learned Tosca from, after seeing it on stage. Young Domingo is in excellent voice (none better for Cavaradossi, really), Scotto dramatic and heartfelt, Bruson combining beauty of voice and menace. Levine's conducting is powerful, well timed, dramatic, catches the beauty. Go for it."