Tosca is my all-time favourite Puccini opera, and I admire/love all his work. This Tosca is not among my first choices like the 1992, 1976, 1984 and 1985 productions, the Tebaldi performance and Corelli film are also must watches, but it is still very good. The sets are huge especially the principal eye set signifying omnipresence perhaps, and the costumes are sumptuous. The orchestra are outstanding especially in the Te Deum, the torture/interrogation scene and the difficult start of Act 3 with the horns in unison, and the conducting is efficient enough, bringing out the intensity of the tour-De-force that is the second act very well. I found the sound surprisingly good, considering how distant or tinny opera productions can sound in open air. This way the rich orchestration has plenty of warmth and poignancy, particularly in the orchestrally sumptuous passage before the Te Deum(always has been one of my favourite bits of Tosca) that you hear also in the Act 1 duet and the Act 3 cello ensemble.
It's some of the camera work that is not quite so good, overall it is quite excellent, but some of the quarter-screen shots in the first act were really ill advised. As for Himmelmann's stage direction, that deserves credit, some things are different to what I'm used to but I found them interesting and not in bad taste. All the arias have the emotional impact they should do, especially E Lucevan E Le Stelle, Tosca's death scene looks great on screen and the second act is a thrilling physical battle between Scarpia and Tosca. The revelation though was with Scarpia, there are some touches that I have not seen done before and very much liked. But these touches are done while still maintaining Scarpia's character, he's still the evil character yet he is still subtle and manipulative. This is particularly true in the Te Deum as he slowly removes his shirt, when he himself joins in with the torture which may have slightly taken away from the subtle dimensions of the role but emphasised his evil, and when he is still on top of Tosca at the start of Vissi D'Arte, which I saw as a means in terms of staging of symbolising a sense of entrapment.
Gidon Saks is superb as Scarpia, often cited as opera's meanest villain and unsurprisingly, by far the most consistent of the principals. His voice is dark and rich, not sounding taxed at all by the demands of this difficult role, and he is lecherous as Scarpias in a way should be. Although his Recondita Armonia is a little shaky, Zoran Todorovich shows a lot of promise for the future and is suitably arrogant and poignant as Caveradossi. He has a nice tone to his voice as well. Nadja Michael is a volatile, passionate, dramatically exciting and moving Tosca. Her voice is both beautiful and musical, though I admit I am worried whether she is taking on too many heavy roles(this, Salome, Eboli to name a few) too early. She does seem like the sort of person that takes care of herself and her voice, so maybe I shouldn't worry too much.
All in all, very good. I can think of Toscas I prefer over this one, but I do recommend it for especially Saks' Scarpia. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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