Puccini: Tosca

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

LABELS: Decca Legends
WORKS: Tosca
PERFORMER: Leontyne Price, Giuseppe di Stefano, Giuseppe Taddei, Fernando Corena; Vienna State Opera Chorus, Vienna PO/Herbert von Karajan
CATALOGUE NO: 466 384-2 ADD Reissue (1962)
The first chords lift you right out of your seat. This is Tosca for the Imax screen, no holds barred. Karajan, and the resplendent Vienna Philharmonic, hurl those chords out of the loudspeakers, and from that moment his hold never falters. Has anyone ever lavished such care, sensuality and physical power on this score? And has any orchestra ever played it as wonderfully as the Vienna Philharmonic? Every detail of Puccini’s Technicolor orchestration is there to marvel at. And theatricality too. Listen to the way Karajan builds the Te Deum at the end of Act I, abetted by John Culshaw’s vivid production: you can smell the incense. Price is a refulgent Tosca, glorious of voice, Di Stefano a wonderfully open-voiced and surprisingly subtle Cavaradossi, and Taddei a compellingly evil Scarpia. For sheer white-hot drama, the mono Callas/De Sabata set remains a classic. But in its different way, and in still-spectacular sound, this is just as overwhelming. A ‘legend’ indeed. Adam Gatehouse