PERFORMER: Fiorenza Cedolins, Andrea Bocelli, Carlo Guelfi, Ildebrando D’Arcangelo, Matteo Peirone, Sergio Bertocchi; Fiesole School of Music Polyphonic Chorus, Florence Maggio Musicale Chorus & Orchestra/Zubin Mehta
CATALOGUE NO: 473 710-2
Recordings of Puccini’s thriller abound, with the palm traditionally awarded to the one made by Callas in the distinguished company of Di Stefano and Gobbi under Victor de Sabata back in 1953. This new set doesn’t come within a million miles of it.
Fiorenza Cedolins sings the title role in a rather mezzo-ish soprano that isn’t always steady. She shows some spirit, but as a conception her Tosca is small-scale, registering as querulous and trivial rather than grand and passionate. Carlo Guelfi’s Scarpia is also on the light side, making him a pretty harmless presence rather than the dark and malignant sadist that Puccini conjured up. Much of his singing is crude and blustery.
But they’re both in altogether superior vocal league compared to the Cavaradossi of Andrea Bocelli, who lacks almost everything needed for the role, most crucially an instrument with a wide range of colour. He sings for whole stretches in a monochrome timbre, often with little or no dynamic variation. Whatever happens to Cavaradossi – torture, or the prospect of execution, for instance – he registers no significant alteration. At best his performance is roughly handled. At worst it is simply embarrassing.
There’s an acceptable team in the secondary roles, with Ildebrando D’Arcangelo’s Angelotti the most presentable. But further nails in the coffin are supplied by Zubin Mehta’s aimless conducting, which shows no sense of structure, nor any frisson of theatricality. George Hall