Notes and Editorial Reviews
Recorded May 15, 1961, this will be a must for fans of the under-recorded, superb soprano Régine Crespin. The world doesn’t need another recording of Tosca at all, but Crespin was a very special artist. Beginning as a dramatic soprano, she sang Kundry and Brünnhilde; her gigantic, beautiful, womanly voice began to fail her around 1970 (at least the top notes failed), and she began to concentrate more on the mezzo repertoire. Her Carmen had great dignity and she was immensely moving as Charlotte in Werther. No matter what she sang, she brought an earthiness and honesty to the character, and it’s good to have her Tosca on CD.
And here, in 1961, she is in magnificent, healthy voice, including all of the high Cs. But she also brings
to the role a sincerity, total lack of show-boating or vulgarity, and plenty of temperament. She may lack the insights of Callas, but she’s a real Tosca nonetheless—jealous, imperious, loving, desperate. Her Cavaradossi is the ubiquitous Giuseppe Di Stefano. So over-recorded as to be part of the collective unconscious, here he is a perfect snapshot of himself: the higher, louder notes are somewhat strained, the pianissimo is a semi-falsetto crooning. But throughout he is convincing and charismatic: you rarely get angry at this tenor for his bad habits; you merely rue the misuse of a beautiful, lyric sound.
Otakar Kraus was a Czech baritone who was based, mostly, in Great Britain, where he sang successfully from 1951 to 1973. His big, nasty sound was ideal for Scarpia and he sings up a storm here. Forbes Robinson’s Sacristan is a plus, as is Edward Downes’ tense, tight conducting. If you own three other Tosca recordings you love, this will not be necessary, but it makes a fine supplement and Crespin is always worth hearing. The sound is surprisingly good.
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