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Tosca (2004)

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Cast

Credited cast:
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Floria Tosca
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Mario Cavaradossi
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Baron Scarpia
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Eliana Bayón ...
Shepherd
Miguel Sola ...
Sacristan
Emilio Sánchez ...
Spoletta
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Release Date:

22 January 2004 (Spain)  »

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16:9 HD
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The best Tosca I've seen in a long time
20 August 2012 | by See all my reviews

By all means, it is not my favourite Tosca of all time. My personal favourite is the 1976 film- which was the one that introduced me to the opera- closely followed by the 1992, 1984 and 1985 performances. The Callas and Gobbi Covent Garden is legendary also. Of recent times, I did like the flawed but interesting Zurich and Amsterdam productions, and loved the 2011 Covent Garden telecast, but disliked the 2009 Met, 2000 Guleghina and 2000/1 Cura performances. Of the productions I've seen recently, while not quite in the same league as the productions I cited as favourites, it was this one from 2004 that was the best one.

Visually, it is atmospheric and original without being drab or undermining the drama. Seeing Scarpia in the guise of what is reminiscent of a church figure may deter some, but for me while unusual it was an interesting touch in a way, when you think of his Tosca you make me forget god line and contrasted with him like that it makes him a bit of hypocrite as well as this smooth, menacing and complex villain. The rest of the costumes are flattering, and the settings are suitably foreboding. The video directing is unobtrusive, and the picture and sound quality is clear.

From a musical point of view, it is outstanding. The orchestral playing is lush, powerful and poetic, typical Puccini and done well. Maurizio Benini's conducting is spacious and quite leisurely in spots, but instead of making the music sound dull like the Patane/Cura/Bruson production, it does make us actually luxuriate in the beauty of Puccini's music. The chorus' role is very small, two bits in Act 1(just before Scarpia enters and the Te Deum) and in Act 2 when Scarpia is interrogating Cavaradossi, but they do a very good job as well.

The performances are just wonderful. There is a slimy Spoletta, a humble Sacristan and a not too melodramatic Angelotti. But it is the principal performances that drive Tosca, and you can't ask for better.

Best of all is the Scarpia of Ruggero Raimondi. He has always been one of my favourites in the role along with Gobbi and Milnes, and while his voice has been more powerful before it doesn't sound taxed. What was the real revelation about his performance was his acting. This is not a one-dimensional performance where only one side of Scarpia's character is conveyed. This is a very complex portrait of opera's meanest villain, he succeeds in oozing with evil and menace, yet gives a sensuality and subtlety also to it. Act 2 is a tour-De-force of high octane drama, and the Te Deum is smoothly dangerous, with Scarpia's blasphemous uttering really stinging.

Daniela Dessi is exceptional as Tosca. Her voice is a little shrill at times, but overall powerful and resourcefully used. Vissi D'Arte is very moving. Her Tosca is impassioned and moving but also a true diva in her dramatic outbursts in Act 2 and her flirtations in Act 1. I wasn't entirely sure though if I would have Tosca enchanted(or so it seemed) with Scarpia, I am more used to the idea of her being repulsed and somewhat frightened by him.

Fabio Armiliato's Cavaradossi is thrilling. Handsome, arrogant, poignant, ardent with a good heart and a clear love for Tosca, he is precisely what one of opera's greatest tenor roles should be like. Add to that a ringing and unstrained, if perhaps not as nuanced as Kaufmann and Domingo, tenor voice, and you have a winner of a performance. Both his arias are wonderfully sung and you do feel the chemistry between him and Dessi, not surprising seeing as they're husband and wife.

The staging perfectly emphasises the opera's themes of power, love, desire, and revenge, intertwining them together for (just) under two hours of hugely compelling drama and great singing. Highly recommended, if not quite my first choice when there's strong competition around.

9/10 Bethany Cox


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