From 1975: The Best Toca On Film
Rudy Avila | Lennox, Ca United States | 09/04/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Deutsche Grammophone has outdone themselves with the release of this 1975 Tosca starring Placido Domingo, Raina Kabaivanska and Sherill Milnes. It is largely considered the greatest opera film ever made. The singing/music was recorded in a studio and then transferred on to the film to synchronize with the action of the film. The cinematography is top-notch, authentic Napoleon Era costumes are used and the film is shot on location in the settings Puccini wrote for in the opera- Act 1 The Church of San Adrea De La Valle, Act 2 Scarpia's Palace Farnese and Act 3 The Tower/Rooftop of the Castel San Angelo in Rome. Visually and acting-wise, it looks brilliant. There are tiny things I noted that do disturb me but they can be overlooked once you realize we are treated to great opera by singers who know their stuff and provide passionate portrayals.
The Hungarian diva Raina Kabaivanska is known as the soprano who sang the most number of Toscas in her career. She knew the role down to a "t." She is in her best voice in this performance and her acting is convincingly intense and emotional. She has genuine chemistry with Placido Domingo, who makes the best Mario Cavaradossi in that he provides the role with passion and idealisic spirit. Domingo knows that Mario is not only an artist but a lover of liberty (though a blind one since he believes that Napoleon is pro-liberty). Likewise, Kabaivanska subdues the diva-esque character of Tosca, making her a woman who is real and experiencing real intense feelings in diverse situations - unreasonable jealousy in Act 1, torture, horror and murderous rage in Act 2, love and suicidal despair in Act 3. Sherill Milnes' Scarpia is a little too weak for me. I prefer a more in-your-face Scarpia, a real nasty piece of work so I have preferred the interpretations of Tito Gobbi, Justino Diaz, Cornell McNeill and Samuel Ramey. Vocally, Sherill Milnes is superb. He captures the character's wickedness, power and lust with flair. He even acts the part well, but for the reason that I still feel nothing when seeing him as I do with the other baritones I mentioned I cannot praise Milnes. Milnes has worked a lot with Domingo on record for the RCA label - Aida,Otello, Trovatore, Tosca and Forza Del Destino. Milnes is a top ranking baritone but in this production his Scarpia is very bland to me. I would have liked it if Justino Diaz had been cast (Diaz has done other opera films including the Grace Bumbry/Karajan Carmen, and the Domingo/Ricciarelli/Zefferelli Otello.
Little things that bothered me were some of the things perhaps people rarely notice. In certain scenes, when I NEEDED, JUST NEEDED to see faces or close-ups to see reactions, I got nothing. In the infamous scene in which Tosca stabs Scarpia, we mostly get Scarpia's perspective camera-wise, and are seeing Tosca through his eyes. It is filmed with graphic intensity and the blood on her hands is a little too much. Further, in the end of Act 1 during the Te Deum Procession Scene, a brief glimpse of ceremonial guests reveal what appear to be men in Ku Klux Klan white robes and hoods! What was that ? Does anyone know who those men are ? What do they have to do with the Te Deum Scene ? When Tosca throws herself from the Castel San Angelo tower in the finale, we see her limp body bleeding in the street and steps below. Not a pretty sight. This film intended to shock as I can see. Also, the little annoyances included the looks of the characters and or their costumes. Raina Kabaivanska is a beautiful woman and quite young in this film, but her modern haircut is not to my liking and feel she comes off as a modern woman from the 70's stepping back in time to the 1800's for a visit. Placido Domingo, usually a well-dressed, shaven and handsome looks absolutely grisly in this film. He is chubby, hairy (hairy chest) and bearded. He does not make the same romantic impression he would later do in the 1982 Zefferelli La Traviata or even the Trovatore conducted by Karajan and also starring Kabaivanska. He would lose weight and take on dashing leads in the 80's but in this film he is just not doing it for me as Cavaradossi. But other than these things, the film is a must have. It leaves you breathless, has a dramatic impact and is musically excellent."
My favorite opera movie
Samuel Gralla | 08/16/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Tosca is not one of my favorite operas, but this dvd is definitely my favorite opera-made-movie. Kabaivanska's Tosca is dramatic, and Domingo and Milnes are spectacular as usual. But what makes this dvd shine above a host of other dvd's with equally stellar casts is the setting and direction. The scenery is constantly beautiful--you're in a church, a palace, a castle--and the director makes great decisions in how he places and films his actors within them. You see faces when you want faces; group shots when you want group shots; scenery when you want scenery. This dvd has two highlights for me, both in act I (but the other acts are done well too). The first is 'recondita armonia'. The director captures visually the spirit of the aria--the duality of a single beauty reflected in these two, so different women--without distractinig you with *too* many changes on the screen. And of course Domingo's clear voice is just perfect for the aria. The second highlight for me is Scarpia's aria at the end of act I. Milnes is terrifying in voice and visage, and the director accentuates this by filming him walking through the church as he sings during mass. It's an effect you couldn't close to achieve on stage, and it's perfect. As he paces along, rooms, church, people and camera swirl around, and all you see is Scarpia, Scarpia, Scarpia, making his mark on the world. Brilliant!"
Kabaivanska is the greatest Tosca of all time.
Rudy Avila | 08/08/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Raina Kabaivanska is surely a composer's dream. She not only sings Tosca; for a couple of hours, she IS Tosca. Her voice is glorious and she is an actress of the first magnitude. Add to those enviable qualities, she is beautiful to look at and moves with extraordinary grace. She and Placido Domingo (Mario) are superb together. Raina Kabaivanska is stellar. Any opera lover must have this video. One never tires of its beauty. For the scholar, this is the definitive verisma in all its purity. No other Tosca rises to such heights of excellence! G.K. Brown, DMA Prof. of Music (Ret.)"
Superb opera for TV
Rudy Avila | 01/29/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I think I have seen Tosca more than 10 times, including a performanece by the ultimate Scarpia Tito Gobbi. However, no performance carries the absolute dramatic experience of this production in the actual scenery where the opera scenes are taking place. From the barroque interior of the the Barberini Chapel in the church of Sant'Andrea della Valle, to the ornate room of Scarpia at the Palazzo Farnese, to Hadrian's mausoleum (Castel Sant'Angelo), this film follows the action all over Rome. A magnificent performance by a young and expressive Domingo, a dramatic and powerful Kabaibanska and the forceful ultra-evil portrayal of Scarpia by Milnes, and the magnificent prodution, make this my favorite opera in film.A must in any serious opera collection."