Puccini: Tosca

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Puccini
LABELS: ICA Classics
WORKS: Tosca
PERFORMER: Renata Tebaldi, Ferruccio Tagliavini, Tito Gobbi, Michael Langdon, Howell Glynne, Noreen Berry et al; The Covent Garden Opera Chorus & Orchestra/Francesco Molinari-Pradelli
CATALOGUE NO: ICA Classics ICAC 5022

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Though both Italian soprano Renata Tebaldi and her compatriot lyric tenor Ferruccio Tagliavini had appeared at the Royal Opera House during a visit by La Scala in 1950, this live 1955 account offers the two great stars in their sole assignments with the home company. If the benchmark in the opera’s title role is usually ascribed to Callas, this performance shows why Tebaldi was regarded as a rival for the Greek-American soprano to reckon with. Tebaldi’s heady tone is equal to every one of the role’s musical demands, while dramatically she proves an engaged and potent heroine.

Yet her scenes with Tagliavini remain tepid. Partly, it’s a result of his voice sounding stretched, but there’s also little vocal chemistry between the two. Not so in the case of Tebaldi and Tito Gobbi’s Scarpia, which as always is dramatically thrilling; though not the greatest voice for the brutal police chief, Gobbi’s baritone arguably provides more theatrical frisson than any other exponent.

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Francesco Molinari-Pradelli is an idiomatic conductor of very respectable forces, though he’s rarely an exciting one, and a dearth of electricity compared to the classic recorded accounts (above all Victor de Sabata’s with Maria Callas, Giuseppe Di Stefano and Tito Gobbi and the Orchestra and Chorus of La Scala, Milan ) is noticeable. Sound, too, is a problem. George Hall