LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
PERFORMER: Raina Kabaivanska, Luciano Pavarotti, Ingvar Wixell, Franco Federici, Alfredo MariottiRome Opera Chorus & Orchestra/Daniel Oren
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 61806 2 DDD
RCA Victor should either have let this Tosca performance be absolutely live or tidied up the applause and other noises consistently. As it stands, we have all the immediacy and distracting appeal of a live stage performance – applause for singers as they appear, some audible prompting and flapping page turns from orchestral stands – coupled with unacceptable post-performance edits in the applause at the ends of arias: thoroughly clumsy after ‘Vissi d’arte’ and utterly unreal between Pavarotti’s first rendition of ‘E lucevan le stelle’ and its encore.
This wa recorded in Rome at the end of 1990. Pavarotti – who was then 55 – delivers a resplendent Cavaradossi, colouring the sweeping lines of Puccini with a haunting timbre and effortless breath control. Kabaivanska, the Bulgarian soprano who made her debut in Sofia back in 1957, proves dramatically convincing, particularly in her Act II dialogues with Scarpia and her near madness in Act III, but her sound, occasionally redolent of Callas in the lower register, is often wild and too breathy. Wixell’s Scarpia maintains too warm a tone to terrorise. His performance is well paced and sung, but not menacing enough to believe that ‘all Rome trembled before him’; however, the Act II exchanges with Cavaradossi and Tosca are most incisive.
If you want a Pavarotti Tosca, try the Decca recording with Freni and Milnes. If you want a Tosca, listen to the first Callas recording from the Fifties on EMI with di Stefano and Gobbi, now available on CD. Elise McDougall