Tosca on a grand scale at Verona
P. Mossel | Delaware | 10/12/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There are many wonderful recordings of Tosca and you may already own a good selection, but this is worth adding to your collection. Giacomo Aragall is in his prime. Although he had a voice of consummate beauty,a handsome dramatic presence on stage,and sang at all major opera houses, his discography is not as large as he deserved. Eva Marton and Ingvar Wixell are both excellent as is the conducting by Daniel Oren. The production is large scale befitting the Verona Arena. A very satisfying performance."
THIS is Grand Opera...
S. Bernard | Mesa, AZ | 06/03/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"THAR BE SPOILERS BELOW.... if you don't know the story of Tosca and don't want plot information, don't keep reading.
I saw this production back in 1985 on PBS and have never forgotten it. Personally for me, it is the best Tosca I've EVER seen. I recently found it on DVD and bought it straight-away. I really don't have enough adjectives for it, but I will try to describe why it's so fabulous.
This is such a wonderful production because all the singers can sing AND act. After all, Puccini's Tosca was based on a play by Sardou for one of the greatest actresses of his day, Sarah Bernhardt. So what is a Tosca without a singer that can act? It's horribly pathetic, I know, I've seen one (more than one, but I won't go bashing here.)
In THIS Tosca, the lead role sung by Éva Marton is to die for (pun intended.) She sings with abundant abandon and also manages to make you believe her EVERY move. They are all motivated by something in her character. You never watch her & think "that's artifice" because it never is. Her "Vissi d'arte" is moving, believable and just a sacred moment in time- a real jewel (nice camera work by Brian Large.) It is also obvious she understands this character of contrasts. Passionate, jealous, pious but dangerous with a knife. :)
She makes you believe in a heroine that can be shy about kissing in front of the "Madonna" in church but fight like a tigress for the man she loves when faced with evil.
Which brings me to the next great acting singer- Ingvar Wixell. While some may find his voice small or dry- I have always liked the quality of his voice. It has a kind of rustic and sensuous quality. But probably best of all is his acting - and I'm not downplaying his voice. He is a singer of formidable qualities (and you may recognize him from the Pavarotti DVD of Rigoletto- more fine acting/singing) but his acting is just so freakin' fabulous that I don't know what else to say. His Scarpia is evil but his Scarpia is human too. By not making him one dimensional, he makes you think about human motivations and machinations. Just one example of the little touches he does that are so genuine:
In Act II after he gets Tosca's agreement of sex in exchange for her lover's life, he grabs her from behind, hungrily kisses her neck, then gives her just a little push-off when he walks away. His Scarpia is always in control. He may want her, but she is disposable and this little movement shows that. Every moment and look and action of Wixell's are right on the money and so in character you forget you're watching an opera - perhaps the highest compliment of all to some!
Our hero, Cavaradossi is sung by Giacomo Aragall. He may not be in the same league with Marton & Wixell when it comes to acting, but he does a good job and doesn't detract in anyway. His singing is selfless and heroic throughout. There are a few moments where he sounds short on breath, but over all this is good Aragall in his prime.
And let's not forget the venue. If there was a devil, I would probably sell my soul to go see a great production like this one at the Arena di Verona in Italy. Because it's in an outdoor arena, the production is HUGE. The sets are huge- they use real sheep in Act III (and yes, even the sheep get applause in Italy! and apparently the tenor does too every time he hits a high C by himself, they stop to applaud, but this only happens twice- I found it endearing.)
The sets, the detail, the costumes, the grandeur of it all is what has kept opera alive all these many hundreds of years. I like a nice quiet and intimate theater experience too, but this is the overwhelming expansiveness that makes for converts!
The orchestra performs well under Daniel Oren. That Act I scene "Va, Tosca!" is tough to keep together (the lack of cannon sound effect make disappoint some, but this scene was loud enough!) The orchestra pumps out a lot of sound, yet the singers never sound drowned out. (When they turn upstage the voices get a bit lost, but the singers seem conscientious of this.) The sound quality on this DVD is very good and the camera work by Brian Large is some of his best. In the 3rd Act when Tosca & Cavaradossi are singing their love duet, he shoots from an angle that allows you to see them both and the huge statue towering over them against the backdrop of the night sky. The whole evening was really quite magical. The camera shows us the grandness of scale, but also allows us to see the singers' finer moments up close and personal.
I cannot recommend this DVD highly enough. There is a great story, great music, great singing, great acting and MAGIC!!! :)
J. Anderson | Monterey, CA USA | 12/27/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Eva Marton is in her prime in this open air Verona amphitheatre production of Tosca. Add the underrated tenor Giacomo Aragall and baritone Ingvar Wixell fleshing out a delicious Scarpia, and you've got a winner. I encountered this production in the 80s and watch it regularly. Marton was a great Tosca, able to act, with simmering musical intelligence and a huge voice that reveled in telling subtleties. Having just seen the recent Luc Bondy Tosca from the Met, with Karita Mattila singing, seeking solace I turned once again to this venerable version with relief. Say what you might about the transformations taking place in opera stagings around the world - Europe has become a nihilistic wasteland of avant garde deconstuction - the conscious parodies of self-loathing opera designers and directors who hate opera are no substitute for a realistic staging that reaches toward the mind and heart of the composer. I'm a musician with no malice toward progress, but I'm unwilling to beat the currently fashionable cadence declaring opera a museum art simply for upholding aesthetic standards that have grown organically from the art form itself. One of the best things about this Tosca remains the unbuttoned enthusiasm of the beautiful Italian audience, adorned with working class men and women who know and love Art when it flowers with the naturally abundant musical pride and joy that suffuses this first class production. Daniel Oren conducts with affection for all his singers. You can't go wrong!"
Aragall, the Ultimate Tenor.
Mrs. A. V. Mackay Binnie | London UK | 02/17/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There are many reasons to buy this DVD, but the first is Aragall, acknowledged by his peers as the finest tenor of the 20th century. The beauty of his voice is unparalleled and his acting is such that he is Cavaradossi. He is supported by Eva Marton who is very believable as Tosca and Ingvar Wixell who is deliciously evil as Scarpia,not as good as Ruggero Raimondi, which would have made it a dream casting. Daniel Oren's conducting shows the promise to come. I have friends who do not think they are opera lovers but after hearing Aragall's "Dammi i colori" beg to listen to the whole opera.Puccini sung as he intended."