Puccini: Tosca

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Puccini
LABELS: Philips
WORKS: Tosca
PERFORMER: Carol Vaness, Giuseppe Giacomini, Giorgio Zancanaro, Piero De Palma, Danilo Seraiocco, Orazio Mori, Charles Austin, Alfredo Mariotti, Jeffrey Smith; Westminster Symphonic Choir, Philadelphia Boys’ Choir, Philadelphia Orchestra/Riccardo Muti
CATALOGUE NO: 434 595-2 DDD
Undaunted by the 16 complete Toscas currently available on CD, Philips has added another two to the canon. New versions should always be welcome – one cannot live in the past – but sadly Riccardo Muti’s first recording fails to liveup to expectations. Orchestrally it could hardly be more monumental (indeed at times the singing is all but drowned out). Muti producesa massive, luxuriant, swelling sound from the Philadelphia Orchestra, but the soloists let him down. Though there is nothing wrong with their singing as such, noneof it catches fire. Carol Vaness isa creditable but undramaticTosca, Giuseppe Giacominia disconcertingly baritonal Cavaradossi disappointingly lacking in ardour, and Giorgio Zancanaro’s Scarpia, though well modulated, is insufficiently dominating. The disc is an editing together of two live performances made almost a year apart in Philadelphia – which may account for the lack of dramatic cohesion.

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This release coincides with a reissue of Colin Davis’s superb 1976 recording – two discs, ingeniously packaged in a single jewel case, for the price of one.On paper, a cast which includes Montserrat Caballé, José Carreras and Ingvar Wixell in the principal roles, along with Samuel Rameyas Angelotti and Ann Murray asthe Shepherd, could hardly be improved upon, and the reality does not disappoint. Caballé’s Tosca is glorious in its warmth, depth and rapture. Carreras’s Cavaradossi is supremely heroic, and Wixell’s Scarpia powerful, if less evidently evil than is often the case. Orchestrally, this performance is also outstanding, with the woodwind and percussion placing the work firmly in the 20th century. Only an occasionally reverberative acoustic mars the set’s overall excellence. Claire Wrathall