The Art of Cinema
Mr. Tibbles | Santa Barbara, CA | 08/30/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"With all the choices among cds and dvds for this Puccini favorite, one has a right to question whether we need another addition, and if so, what does this filmed version have to offer? In my opinion...plenty. Unlike most opera dvds which are usually filmed versions of live performances, Benoit Jacquot's Tosca is a true attempt at using the techniques and charms of cinema to infuse this Tosca with a new energy and vitality. Exactly what some reviewers have found distracting...or worse..I find are the best aspects of this offering. The switching from the black and white (behind the scenes) sequences to the color "performance" scenes is beautiful, surprising, and effective. Now none of this would matter if the principals could not handle their roles, but I find Gheorghiu, Alagna and Raimondi more than up to their challenges...both vocally and cinematically...and that's the point. This is a film, and should be judged as such. In my estimation, it is a wonderful addition to anyone's Tosca opera library."
Barbara Binkley | Pottstown, PA USA | 09/06/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This shabbly, little shocker as Tosca was once known, comes to it fullblown potential here with the dream couple of Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna. Never before in opera were there two more physically beautiful stars to embody the essences of Floria Tosca and her lover, Mario Cavaradossi with voices and expressions to match. This Tosca outclasses the Domingo/Behrens production that I have on VHS. For once there's a Floria Tosca simply and beautifully attired in a classic red dress befitting the diva. Gheorghiu is worthy and truly the best successor to Maria Callas, who once owned this role. Roberto Alagna is dreamily expressive and in such fine voice, though his Mario is a bit more passive than the more traditionally fiery Marios of Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo and Neil Shicoff, the only one of these three tenors still singing this role today. Tosca remains a classic must do opera for the worthy tenors and sopranos of today. Ruggero Raimondi, whom I still vividly remember as a seductive Escamillo in Carmen, has turned his seductive power lustfully to evil and falls to Tosca's Kiss of the blade. It's fitting that Tosca will be opening the 2009-10 season this September 21 at the Metropolitan Opera. It's an opera one can pour one's heart and soul into as these two lovers live larger than life, bravely defying those around them to their very end. Bravo/Brava."
Frustrating! GREAT OPERA RUINED by intercutting behind-the-s
cinephiliagal | 07/11/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This only gets 3 stars because there is no mechanism for giving it 2.5 stars.
Okay, first let me say I've seen a lot of Tosca performances -- live, on video, on PBS' Great Performances at the Met -- and I've seen a lot of great singers perform in Tosca, live and on TV or video. I've seen Domingo as Mario (unbelievable!) and Ramey as Scarpia live (very, very good and disturbingly sexy in an ick-why-am-I-finding-this-sleazy-slimey-morally-bankrupt-character-sexy? kind of way, but Ramey can do that with so many villainous roles for which he's perfect). I'm not really into sopranos - heresy, I know - so I can't recall who sung Tosca every time I've seen it, but my point is, I've SEEN Tosca, live, multiple times over the last 3 decades, and I've HEARD Tosca, on CD, on broadcasts, and while watching it on PBS, video, and finally DVDs, countless times.
Second let me say that I love Roberto Alagna's voice. He does have a bit of a tendency to slide up into notes lately, it seems to me; but then, I'm not a singer and I'm not reading the scores, and for all I know, some of the parts may be written that way (Don Jose in Carmen comes to mind; I have recordings of both Domingo (breathtaking!) and Alagna singing Don Jose in Carmen -- Domingo at his peak, in the late 70s/early 80s -- and Domingo slides up into some of the same notes that Alagna does). I think Alagna has been somewhat unfairly maligned as a singer since his marriage to Gheorghiu and their divo/diva behavior, but it's not fair to fault his singing for their often press-worthy divo/a activities.
Of course Alagna has beautiful chemistry with Gheorghiu in this DVD of Tosca; what else would one expect?
But if you REALLY LOVE THE OPERA TOSCA, this DVD will be an exercise in frustration.
Opera is meant to be seen live. A DVD is as close an approximation as you can get, and provides a means to preserve some of the best modern voices for posterity.
But opera -- Tosca -- should be seen AS AN OPERA, with intact dramatic presentation and acts.
YOU DON'T GET THAT WITH THIS DVD.
The drama of Tosca (and there's a lot of it) is UTTERLY ruined by the performance of the opera being intercut with scenes of the *recording* of the soundtrack.
Every time I started to *really* get into the drama and music, they would cut away to behind-the-scenes excerpts with Alagna and/or Gheorghiu in regular clothes backed by the full orchestra conducted by Pappano.
Even worse, the filmed opera is in hyper-saturated color with lots of red, and the intercut scenes of the recording are all in black and white. This contrast only serves to heighten the disjointedness of the editing decisions.
I get the feeling that this was an attempt to do some kind of modernization of the opera, or perhaps the operatic equivalent of "vanity publishing."
Whatever it is, the story arc, the character development, and the drama building to the tragic climax is GREATLY DILUTED by these black-and-white recording scenes that interrupt the performed opera. SO FRUSTRATING!
Raimondi tries, but even he can't overcome the constant interruption, so his Scarpia winds up tepid when he should be loathsome. It's not his fault!! He's as capable as Ramey or Milnes, but the editing of this DVD doesn't allow his character to build into the corrupt bastard we love to hate in Tosca.
If you want to see Tosca, THE OPERA, on DVD, there are better DVDs to buy or rent. Do NOT buy this unless you are a completist fan of Alagna and/or Gheorghiu.
If you love Tosca, you may hate this DVD. It's that disappointing, and it shouldn't be. As another reviewer mentioned, they could have left all the behind-the-scenes shots of filming the audio on the DVD as extras! or on a 2nd DVD!
There was no reason to intercut the black and white video of the soundtrack recording process with the performance of the opera and *ruin* the flow of Tosca! No reason except... I don't know. Trying to be daring, experimental, or unique? Or just vanity? I don't know, I don't care... it was a mistake.
If you want to see Tosca the way it should be seen, either of the DVDs with Domingo (such as the Zeffirelli production, with Hildegard Behrens as Tosca; or with Kabaivanska singing Tosca, Bruno Bartoletti conducting, and Sherrill Milnes as a snakey, seductive Scarpa to rival Samuel Ramey's) are much better for watching Tosca in it's entirety, as it should be seen.
Personally I think Roberto Alagna's best opera DVDs are done with ensemble casts *without* Angela. I know that they liked to sing together a lot, and I've never had the pleasure of seeing them together live. I would have liked to (this seems unlikely now, given that they're separated and have filed for divorce). But there seems to be more meddling with the filming of the opera or the editing of the final product whenever Roberto sings with Angela (or, conversely, when Angela sings with Roberto).
For example, Alagna is fantastic in the DVD of the French version of Verdi's Don Carlos with Karita Mattila. He's also superb in the Covent Garden DVD of Gounod's Romeo and Juliet with Leontina Vaduva; and I recently saw the Metropolitan Opera's Live in HD summer encore broadcast of Romeo and Juliet in which Alagna sang, in a local movie theater. Even though Alagna is in his mid-40s now, he can still believably pull off a young, cherubic Romeo because his voice is just that pure and beautiful.
So, DON'T think I'm criticizing Alagna or Gheorghiu when I criticize this DVD. I like them both, especially Alagna (I have four DVDs of operas with Alagna).
I just can't stand to see the drama of an opera like Tosca ruined by constant interruptions! And at some of the most dramatic parts!!
Now, what I *would* love to see is Alagna and Gheorghiu performing as Don Jose and Carmen in Carmen. I was SO BUMMED that Gheorghiu canceled her scheduled Carmen dates at the Met (although, don't get me wrong -- Elina Garanca was AMAZING as Carmen, possibly the best Carmen in voice, acting and appearance that I've ever seen live (and I got to see Denyce Graves live in Carmen several years ago -- also outstanding!!), and a perfect foil for Alagna's obsessed, driven-mad-with-jealousy-and-heartbreak Don Jose).
I know, it's the I-can't-look-away-from-the-train-wreck part of me that wanted to see Roberto Alagna sing and play the obsessed, jealous Don Jose to Angela Gheorghiu's hot/cold, passionate and then spurning Carmen. I just thought the chemistry would be enhanced and the volatility increased because of their current personal situation of separation and divorce. I sound like a manipulative movie director, I know. But I still think it would have been utterly captivating, and probably alternately scalding and icy.
I get goosebumps during the final duet in Act IV of Carmen ("C'est toi? C'est moi."), no matter who's singing. ("j'implore, je supplie" -- not to mention Don Jose's devastated "tu ne m'aimes donc plus?", and especially his heartrending "Eh bien! S'il le faut, pour te plaire, je resterai bandit... tout ce que tu voudras... Tout! tu m'entends... mais ne me quitte pas, O ma Carmen! souviens-toi du passé! nous nous aimions, naguère, Ah! ne me quitte, Carmen, Ah! ne me quitte pas!")
But can you imagine, the living-apart-the-last-year-separated-and-filed-for-divorce-in-Swizterland Alagna/Don Jose and Gheorghiu/Carmen going at it on stage? Seriously, I envisioned possible electrical accidents or spontaneous combustion with the two of them, singing those two roles, at this difficult point in their relationship. I want MORE goosebumps, and I think they could have done it... if only they could have sung Carmen together at the Met.
But I digress. And Elina Garanca is a fantastic Carmen in her prime, who we can expect to see singing the role for many years to come... perfecting it, honing it; she's already made it her own."