The second half of this recording is an important item in the too-scanty video discography of Maria Callas. Matched with another great singing actor, Tito Gobbi as the lecherous, hypocritical Scarpia, she participates in... more » a textbook demonstration of how Act II of Tosca should be performed. There is a subtlety and nuance in their interactions that one seeks in vain in later, technologically more advanced videos. With a murder onstage, torture offstage, sexual harassment, and deep anguish (beautifully expressed in "Vissi d'arte"), this act provides rich opportunities for these performers, and they take full advantage. You may hear it better sung; you are not likely to see it better acted. The first half, a 1964 recital, offers less scope for acting, and Callas's voice is slightly past its prime, but she performs impressively in the mezzo range in two arias from Carmen. --Joe McLellan« less
"I first heard about this performance (Tosca) nearly 30 years ago when I was a teenager and new to the world of opera. Since then it had stuck in the back of my mind, occasionally being brought intensely to the forefront whenever a snippet of it was shown during the occasional documentary.Here it is, after three decades, it's going on 2 a.m., and I've had one of the most profound experiences in recorded opera.....whew!First of all, this is a barebones dvd: Chapter list and some brief but interesting notes in the accompanying liner.Then there are the performances...Callas in concert at Covent Garden in 1962. "Tu che la vanità" from Don Carlos, plus the Habanera and Seguedille from Act 1 of Carmen. Callas sings with the expected intensity in the Verdi, and with atypical jovolity and coyness in the Bizet, which are all ably conducted by the young Georges Prêtre. If this were the entire content of this dvd, it would be worth the cost.But along comes Act 2 of Tosca, from two years later. Holy Toledo! Renato Cioni sings Cavaradossi just adaquetely, and not really serving a whole lot of dramatic purpose with a standard performance. Robert Bowman as Spoletta and Dennis Wicks as Sciaronne are better in their acting, but not very impressive vocally. The conductor, Cillario, leads without much insight...again, standard opera fare.Obviously, the big bucks went to Callas, Gobbi, and Zeffirelli who all certainly earned their pay. Callas and Gobbi had seen better days vocally, especially Callas who, though in pretty good voice, sounds downright nasty here and there. But those very few exceptions are far and few in between.Here are two masters, two artists at the very top of their craft, two legendary performers giving a definitive performance of sight and sound. From the beginning of the act, Gobbi dominates with a presence that few could ever hope to do. And when Callas finally enters, the sparks fly. Nearly every gesture, every vocal inflection, every subtle nuance carries weight that cannot be measured. There are very very few moments of stage mannerisms, so complete are their portrayals. While not always pretty vocally, they show off to the world why they dominated the opera stage during their prime. The intensity they create together is incredible, seldom letting up in the cat and mouse game they play.Technically, the picture is good, but not great.Pretty good by early 60's television standards. The camera work for the most part is well done, save for a few instances of poor angles or exclusionary closeups that can be pretty frustrating.Overall, it is quite good.Zeffirelli, the ultra conservative, directs a wonderful production,but when you go back in time, you see how little he really changes over the years.For all it's relatively minor shortcomings, this is one of the greatest operatic moments on film. The earlier clips are priceless, but after a (literally) hair raising Tosca, you may barely remember them! 5 stars to the 10th power! Thank you EMI!"
Boz | 10/06/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Of her Met performance of 1964, Rudolf Bing said,"There never was such a Tosca." After seeing the video of Act 2, I must agree. Every note, every phrase, every movement is perfection. She IS Tosca, and we are humbled and grateful to have witnessed her performance."
Tosca, finalmente mia! ...
J. Meija | Cincinnati, OH United States | 09/01/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Finally we have the 1962 Covent Garden concert on DVD (previously it was available only on VHS). Of course, for many Callas fans, the coulomb lapse at the end of "tu che vanita" is piece of cake, but this is not the only reason to have this sound document. Maria is relaxed and her voice is is good condition (you will not hear any problems in the upper register here). She is happy and that's all we need from and outstanding artist. One should physically see the young Georges Pretre (with whom Callas recorded in these years Carmen). He conducts in the very extraordinary way, especially the I and III Act preludes from Carmen. The (1964) II act of Tosca with Gobbi and Cioni is an valuable material where Callas shows that she is still THE Queen. Gobbi is a little in rush and one can see that he was getting old. You cannot compare this performance with the 1958 Paris Gala concert (also with Maria, available on DVD). There is not that charm anymore... But despite all the pros and cans, this DVD is an additional step in the journey of the Callas appreciation; and you know that video is always a big deal in opera. Buy it today and you will be fascinated with the presence of Callas!"
"THIS is the kiss of Tosca!"
William Bingham | Tuscaloosa, AL USA | 06/28/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"And she plunges the dagger into the breastbone of her tormenter, Scarpia, and then it gets really good. She rises
over him as he staggers back mortally wounded and roars, "Did you torture me enough?...And so I forgive you." Most everyone loves the firey brilliance and dramatic dash of a Callas performance, even if her voice isn't that pleasant sometimes. This is a pair of thirty-minute black & white BBC TV programs from 1962 and 1964, the first a concert consisting of three arias, and the second a staging of Act II of Tosca with Tito Gobbi (who was also the finest Baron Scarpia ever). Just a taste, then, of someone who needed to be filmed for her legend to be fully appreciated. If only they had captured her Norma and Lucia of the mid-fifties--JE REGRET!"
Mr. P. H. Murray | London United Kingdom | 12/12/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a conflation of two rare televised appearances of Callas from Covent Garden. The first was filmed in 1962 and Callas is in surprisingly good voice, considering she had almost given up at this time (her only other appearances that year were a series of concerts - no stage appearances at all). The Verdi is sung with a wealth of detail and expression and she acts out all Elisabetta'a emotions vividly, while hardly moving a muscle. Indeed she is so immersed in her singing that when a large brooch she is wearing dislodges and drops to the floor, she barely notices. She then changes completely into a playful, sexy and dangerous Carmen. What a pity she never wanted to sing the role on stage. The second part of the DVD is a fully staged performance of Act2 of Tosca with Tito Gobbi and Renato Cioni. Why oh why didn't they have the forseight to film the whole thing? Still I guess we should be grateful for what we have. There are faults - the camera work isn't all it should be - but this is surely the most riveting perofrmance of this act ever committed to film.True, Callas was in better voice when she filmed this same Act in Paris a few years previously (some of the top notes are little better than screams), but I have rarely, if ever, seen opera singers act with such naturalness and abandon. Both Callas and Gobbi are superb. You really forget they are singing and end up being totally drawn in to the performance of two actors. In fact I remember that on the days I worked at the English National Opera shop, whenever we played this video when the audience were gathering for that evening's performance, the tiny little shop would quickly fill up with people who couldn't take their eyes off the television screens. Enough said! "