This film, released in 1975, was the first Tosca to be transferred from stage to film, and was shot on location in the actual sites in Rome, Italy specified in the opera by Puccini: Act 1 is set in the Church of the San Andrea De La Valle, Act 2 is the Palazzo Farnese and Act 3 is set atop the parapets of the Castel San Angelo. The naturalistic, real flavor to this Tosca makes it very powerful drama and looks every bit like a mainstream film. It is indeed a fine intro to opera, though this opera I wouldn't recommend as a first opera. The beautiful and elegant Hungarian soprano Raina Kabaivanska is vocally an outstanding Tosca and in Placido Domingo we have a very well-sung and well- characterized Mario Cavardossi. Baritone Sherill Milnes is appropriately slimy in some scenes, though like the other critic wrote in his or her review, he does not portray the sadistic and sinister Baron Chief of Police with enough compelling prowess. He is however, a gifted actor and the fact he looks young instead of an old sadist is a nice touch. The Te Deum Scene at the end of Act 1 is glorious. Act 3 is actually filmed inside a chamber in the Farnese Palace. In the famous scene in which Tosca stabs Scarpia, however, Kabaivanska does not do the traditional "ritual" of placing two candelabrum on either side of his dead body, and the power in that one moment is entirely omitted and is disappointing. The grim finale in which Tosca discovers Scarpia's dirty trick has worked from beyond the grave and Mario truly is executed is done well. The camera angles are a bit odd sometimes as sometimes we get close-ups, sometimes we don't, aerial views and in Scarpia's death scene, the camera seems to shake and we are looking at the murder from his eyes - we see Tosca goading him to die, though I think this is a great touch. This film is wonderful and should be viewed by any serious fan of opera. In 1975, Domingo, Kabaivanska and Milnes were in great vocal shape though I have to say that Domingo is not his usually well-groomed self. He is hairy (hair on his chest) and disheveled and a tad overweight. He looks better in his 80's opera films - Zefferelli's Traviata in 1982, Otello in 1986 and the last Tosca he did with soprano Catherine Malfitano in 1991. That other Tosca is also very great and is shot on location again.
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