PERFORMER: Roberto Alagna, Angela Gheorghiu, Ruggero Raimondi, Maurizio Muraro, Enrico Fissore; Tiffin Children’s Choir, ROH Chorus & Orchestra/Antonio Pappano
CATALOGUE NO: CDS 5 57173 2
This set is full of surprises. Angela Gheorghiu has scored her greatest successes with the more passive operatic heroines. Here she reveals another side of her vocal personality with a highly strung, grand guignol Tosca who snarls with anger as she stabs Scarpia and orders him to suffocate on his own blood. Under studio conditions this voice can ride the full orchestra thrillingly at climaxes but also delivers a perfectly controlled and lyrical ‘Vissi d’arte’. It is this ability to capture the lyrical as well as the dramatic aspects of the character which is achieved by relatively few Toscas. If Gheorghiu doesn’t have the rich, cushioned sound of Leontyne Price or the blood-curdling theatricality of Callas, she has all the necessary temperament in spades.
The other surprise is the decision to cast the 60-year-old Ruggero Raimondi as Scarpia instead of one of today’s younger bass-baritones. However, his musical performance is riveting. Raimondi says that Scarpia’s ‘sensuality is the chink in his armour’ and he plays the role as a ruthless aesthete pursuing his carnal pleasures with feline grace. What he lacks in vocal force he makes up for in hidden menace. Antonio Pappano conducts a dramatic performance with the forces of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Unfortunately the competition from other recorded Toscas is fierce and Roberto Alagna’s Cavaradossi is not as refined in details of colouring and phrasing as, for instance, di Stefano. However, this is overall a very exciting set and Gheorghiu fans will not be disappointed. Clive Portbury