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Puccini - Tosca (remastered)
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Product Description

This is the best of Placido Domingo's several video performances as the painter Cavaradossi, lover of the prima donna Floria Tosca and enthusiast of revolutionary ideals in the repressive atmosphere of Napoleonic-era Rome. His colleagues, Cornell MacNeil and Hildegard Behrens, are both seasoned and highly capable performers who make the deadly confrontation between Tosca and the corrupt police chief Scarpia intense and believable. Guiseppe Sinopoli conducts with style and dramatic power. But in many ways the primary reason for wanting Tosca in a video rather than an audio recording is the staging by Franco Zeffirelli--effective for the few thousand who saw it in the opera house but even more effective on camera for the much larger television and home video audience. He shifts easily from the small-scale duets in Act I to the grandiose spectacle of the "Te Deum" just before the curtain. His attention to small details helps build the tension in Act II to its violent climax, and in Act III he gives poignancy to the abrupt shift from hope to despair. The essence of Tosca is melodrama, and the singers, conductor, director, and audience all revel in it. --Joe McLellan

Customer Reviews:

  • The Best "Tosca" Available on Video!
    This version, with Placido Domingo as Cavarodossi and Robert McCracken as Scarpia, is the best one I've ever seen. Domingo is famed in this century for the excellence of his Cavarodossi, and in this video you can plainly see why. You'd have to be made of stone not to cry like a baby after hearing his "E lucevan stelle" in the last act. Hildegard Beherens has the best rendition of "Vissi d'Arte" I've heard, better than Callas, than Marton, than Van Ness. Mac's Scarpia is amazingly evil; in his costume and makeup he looks somewhat like a toad, but his voice is a beautiful, rich baritone- almost too beautiful for this villainous role. All of them together make for a perfect casting of this opera, one of Puccini's best- not a single wasted note, action, or aria. "Tosca" is a jewel among Puccini's works- more accessible than "Butterfly" and "Turandot"- a good work for those just starting their enjoyment of this art form. And this version is a fine addition to the collection of afficionado and beginner alike....more info
  • A recording to avoid
    I'm gravely disappointed by this recording. The staging is stilted and the performances are inadequate. Domingo sings with dedication, but he isn't in his top form. Behrens is woefully miscast as Tosca, for her unitalianate tone, wobbly delivery and, in some instances, thread-bare voice completely fail to do justice to the role.

    In my view, this is a recording that one should avoid....more info

  • The Best Third Act of Tosca
    This dvd is worth buying merely for the beautiful setting of the third act. Zeffirelli's vision of the third act is so touching with the prison under ground and soldiers walking on the top. Domingo is very sorrowful and convincing but Behrens is stuck somewhere between verismo and belcanto (as always). Some believe that she is not good for Wagnerian operas either. But please bear in mind that after all she is an opera singer and as C.E. Bach once said opera singers know music more than any one else so it is not appropriate for me (or even conductors) to be scrupulous with her. Met productions are often very beautiful in stage designing and they almost never have any sound technical problems so if you like the cast then you should buy this dvd. ...more info
  • A Good Enough Tosca: Zefferelli, Domingo, Behrens, McNeil
    Which Tosca is the greatest will always be a matter of personal taste and or popularity. It seems many simply eat up the 1975 film starring Placido Domingo, Raina Kabaivanska and Sherill Milnes, while for a recording everyone adores the incomparable 1950's record starring none other than Maria Callas, Giuseppe Di Stefano and Titto Gobbi. This 1984 Metropolitan Opera production is not that bad, despite a few flaws that really can be overlooked when you consider the good things about this performance. To get rid of all the negativity that this performance has probably already suffered, let's first discuss the downside of this performance. For a 1984 production, this Tosca does not seem new or fresh,and therefore not powerful enough ultimately but rather a repetition of the classic versions most people are familiar with, though the fault lies in that director Franco Zefferelli, who designed the set and artwork, simply attempted to imitate the lost magic of his first encounter with Maria Callas and Tito Gobbi back in 1964, which marked the last time Callas sang at the Met and the last time she ever sang Tosca. The singers each have their shining moments, but also their unmistakable flaws. A lot has already been said about the miscast Hildegard Behrens in the eponymous role. Of course, a Callas she is not, but nor does she evoke the grand divas of the past that made Tosca a thrilling and great role- Renata Tebaldi, Leontyne Price, Montserrat Caballe, Mirelal Freni, Katia Ricciarelli or Renata Scotto. While these ladies sang with full Italian fire, Behrens is, like one review states, closer to sounding like the Swedish Wagnerian soprano Birgit Nilsson, who also sang Tosca in her own career. Behrens has a light voice despite her attempt to make it seem bigger than it actually is. She is often screaming rather than singing. She fails to impress in the first and last act though her performance in the second act- Scarpia's Farnese Palace..in the infamous scene when she stabs Scarpia after enduring watching her lover Mario being tortured - is absolutely brilliant. No other soprano can match her strength in the lines "Muori Danato Muuro..Muori! Die Damned One Die! With a particularly strong accent on the last Muori which sends Scarpia to his death! Domingo is in fine shape and there is very little to criticize about his performance. He perfectly captures the character vocally and dramatically. Placido Domingo has had a lot of experience singing the role of Mario both on record and on film. He has sung the role opposite Kabaivanska, Leontyne Price and Mirella Freni, all great performances. Domingo is the equal to Franco Corelli in many ways in that he subdues any macho bravura that Pavoratti or Mario del Monaco may give to the role. He is more the artist/idealist than simply the tenor hero. He does get the role more than any other tenor does. However, I do enjoy Jose Carreras in the role and find him equally as impressive. Cornell McNeill is singing in a very experienced voice, and he oozes evil, and has fine moments, but his performance seems very very rehearsed. However, even despite this, he is still the best Scarpia to my knowledge. Other Scarpias I enjoy on record are Justino Diaz, Ruggero Raimondi and Samuel Ramey. Cornell Mcneil is in his element as Scarpia, from the beginning when he emerges in a dark cape "Un tal bachiano in Chiesa!" and when he shouts "Tosca you make me forget God" and when he proposes that Tosca sell her body to him in order to save Mario.

    The really impressive asepcts of this Tosca is the art direction by none other than film director Franco Zefferelli who has had a life long love affair with opera. In Italian-born man, raised loving opera, once a friend of Callas, director of such films as The Taming of the Shrew with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Romeo and Juliet from 1968, Hamlet with Mel Gibson in 1991 and other fine films, he is experienced in providing a story with as much authenticity as he can muster. On This DVD, a featurette is included that has Zefferelli roaming through Rome in search of the spots that are integral to Tosca - the Church of the San Andrea De La Valle in Act 1, whose gorgeous interior he recreates in the backdrop (complete with apricot, golden light coming from the arched windows)- the Te Deum scene is of course magnificent. The Palace Farnese is not as pretty as I thought it would be from the inside I must say. It seems that all Zefferelli did was imitate the same set he used for the 60's version with Callas. Poor Zefrelli, it seems all his life he attempted to find a singer most like Callas. If only Teresa Stratas had sung Tosca. She most resembled and sang like Callas but never performed Tosca. Hildegard Behrens is simply inadequate as the definative Tosca. The Castel San Angelo is lovingly recreated. All in all, a fine stage version. ...more info
  • splendid!
    Wonderful! All this talk of bad acting, poor voices, unintelligent casting is some reviewers' attempt to make themselves feel important. It's opera, and it's Puccini, so forgiving larger-than-life gestures, scenery, and emotions is not only easy to do, but necessary. All three leads embody their characters well, and in the opera house, it must have been magnificent. On film, it's a wonderful taste of what some of us never got the chance to see....more info
  • Casting problems
    While the men sound good, our leading lady, in thread-bare voice, is hardly any idea choice for the heroine. Anyway, it's not too bad as a video but it would be much better if the casting director had been wiser....more info
  • a very pleasant performance, despite the catty reviews
    It is dumbfounding that many reviews of this Tosca concentrate on Ms. Behrens' appearance in lieu of the overall production. Not only is this catty, it smacks of sexism (E.g. I would be surprised if those who commented on her age would make similarly cheap attacks at having to suspend reality and watch a titanic Pavarotti perform an allegedly starving Rodolfo).

    That being said, Behrens' Tosca is vocally compelling and dramatically quite appealing. Domingo's Cavaradossi is the finest on DVD (on par with his filmed performance of the role with Kabaivanska). MacNeil is good, although a bit of a ham (which is a risk of filming live performances, as gestures intended for a large theatre are exaggerated when seen up-close).

    Sinopoli masterly leads the strong Met orchestra. Although many professional critics dismiss Zeffirielli productions as over-the-top and sentimental, this video attests to why most audiences love his stagings as representing the true spirit of dramatic opera....more info
  • Excellent
    Excellent audio-video! Always a pleasure to see a Met/Zefarelli production. While the "movie" versions are very well done, I prefer to see the staged versions and the Met and Franco are tops! This a remarkably crisp image for a older production. The remastering is superb and the cast is world-class, of course....more info
  • Magnificant!
    Act I, the chapel scene as designed by Zeffirelli and executed by some very talented artist will never, in my opinion, be matched by other designers. It is truly a masterpiece, so good, in fact, that at the end of the act, the curtain closes, only to reopen for the most fabulous tableau ever! While the rest of the sets are grand, this Act I makes this DVD a valuable asset to any designer seeking inspiration, no matter the size of their working stage. ...more info
  • Cornell MacNeil is spectacular as Scarpia!
    I have five "Toscas" on video and DVD. This production, done at the Met in NYC, is the best of the lot. I Have seen this same production at the Met and the scenery is wonderful. I agree it is Placido Domingo's best performances on video. Hildegard Behrens plays a very charming and believable Tosco. Her performance in ActII with Cornell MacNiel as Scarpia is particularly moving. But it is MacNeil who steals the show! He play the part of the villain with such exactness and facial expressions that at times he looks like Dracular! He is also in excellent voice for this performance. This is a "don't miss" Tosca....more info
  • Don't be so hard on Behrens!
    No, she isn't Tebaldi, but watch how involved and totally commited she is to the character. You can believe that the two leads are in love (and not that cliched opera-acting, don't get too close you'll wrinkle my gown I can't look at this person I'm supposedly in love with because I stare at the conductor all evening way). She touches Domingo and looks into his eyes. Plus, instead of some kind of cool Germanicism or I'm-too-good-for-this-Italian-trash-because-I-do-Brunnhilde attitude, you get a fully commited warm-blooded performance. And yes, even though the Zeffirelli production is SO tired, it's still so beautiful....more info
  • A Thrilling, Heart Pounding Tosca!
    Hildegard Behrens was the controversial choice for this Tosca - which delighted, frustrated and infuriated opera goers then - and still does. Opinions are almost nowhere near the middle on this - you either love this or you HATE it. I LOVE it.

    Behrens sinks her teeth into as sensual a Tosca as one is ever likely to see . . . she's flirty and almost funny in Act 1 and develops a fully integrated character. Her desperation in the rape/murder scene, her earlier revulsions, rage and remorse are palpable. While the voice is not, admittedly, "Italianate" she still has the necessary Italian sense of "morbidezza" - and the even the catches in her throat humanize this Tosca.

    Zeffirelli picture perfect recreation of Puccini's three acts that is without a doubt one of the best things he's given us.

    Domingo is heroic (if not always in best voice) and McNeil's hamminess is effective in an over-the-top (if not particularly sensual) Scarpia.

    Sinapoli, despite bad press and some tough times with the Met band, gives a taut, dramatic reading.

    Again, Behrens gives her all - her suicide leap is breathtaking - instead of a Tosca jumping off to her death, Behrens's Tosca actually jumps UP - almost as if she expected to meet Scarpia before God right then . . . and then "swoosh" down she falls . . . it's chilling!
    ...more info
  • Best version on DVD
    Behrens, though a bit aged here, is phenomenal. I've searched around, and I've yet to hear a soprano give such a powerful performance of Visi d'arte or Scarpia's death scene. Her "Mori! Mori! Mori!" is truly visceral. Sure, she could be younger, but nonetheless she does a fantastic job here, the best I've heard. Domingo is excellent too, of course. Finally, the sets are perfect, with no postmodern nonsense.

    ...more info
  • Zeffirelli steals this show
    I don't share other's enthusiasm for MacNeil's Scarpia. He looks like a benevolent Grandpa! Now if you've ever seen Gobbi play this part you know what evil looks like! The star of the show is Franco Zeffirelli. I saw this production at Covent Garden and the sets are breathtaking, particularly of Act 1. The video conveys this very well indeed. Domingo is of course superb and Behrens is in fine voice. I'd be nervous about kissing a girl with those top teeth though! Her Vissi d'arte is lovely, but, unlike Domingo, she can't act for toffee. It's a great evening's entertainment and I recommend it....more info
  • The Best Stage Version Of Tosca
    Yes, this is the best STAGE VERSION of Tosca, mainly because of the lavish detail provided by the artistic director Franco Zefferelli. However, as far as the diva in the title role, she is far too Wagnerian in the role and mirrors her predecessor Birgit Nilsson who sang Tosca in her own illustrious career. There is nothing wrong with her performance mind you and Hildegard Behrens is extraordinary and larger-than-life. But she lacks the hot blooded Italian soul so vital to the character of Tosca. She has even been dubbed the paragon of Italian womanhood. Tosca is one of Puccini's most complex heroines. Internally, she is fighting a battle. She loves Cavaradossi but she has a temptation for the powerful alpha male that is Baron Scarpia. When she kills Scarpia it's the death blow to her own desires for him. She gives all for love when she realizes Scarpia has deceived her and Mario Cavaradossi has really been executed. She leaps to her death from the heights of the Castel San Angelo, which is an actual building in Rome. The opera is Puccini's most intense and "real" plot-wise. Everything just falls apart for Tosca. She "lived for art and love" but got nothing thanks to the demonic intervention of Scarpia. Among the most famous scenes of all opera is Tosca murdering Scarpia. "Questo il beccio Di Tosca!" "Muori Danato Muori" (This is Tosca's kiss.. Die damn man die die!". This is, as I said, the greatest stage version of the opera. Zefferelli, ever the perfectionist, copied the Baroque/Renaissance details of the Cathedrals in Rome. As bonus features, this DVD shows Zefferelli working on the art direction on location in Rome.

    The best performance here is Placido Domingo as Cavaradossi. By this time in 1984, he had mastered the role and sung it numerous times. His younger days as Mario were superior though and he is at his best in a 1975 film starring opposite Raina Kabaivanska. That is the best film version of Tosca, as it was shot on location in Rome. At that time, he was much larger in weight which some find off-putting (leave it to Hollywood's emphasis on looks to creep its way into opera too!!) but his voice is glorious. In 1985, Domingo was sexier and his bright voice had become much much darker. But this is a great thing. Mature and highly experienced, he was able to take on such roles as Verdi's Othello at this time, Prince Calaf in Turandot, the lead role in Pagliacci and Cavalleria Rusticana. Domingo oozes heroism and sensitivity as Mario Cavaradossi. He is a political activist and an artist. His "Ricondita Armonia" and "E Lucevan La Stelle" and duets with Tosca are quite moving.

    Cornell McNeill was of the "stand there and sing" type of artist (but so many opera stars were, among them the very famous fat tenor Luciano Pavoratti) but McNeill's dark and sinister baritone voice is laser sharp for the role of Baron Scarpia. His powerful presence and mannerisms on stage are immediately reminiscent of the late great Tito Gobbi, by far the greatest intrepreter of Scarpia. It's very possible that the chemistry that Tito Gobbi and Maria Callas had on stage is what Zefferelli attempted with McNeill and Behrens. But while Cornell Mcneill is very close to the Tito Gobbi dramatic style, Hildegard Behrens lacks the Italian voice for Tosca. This is the only setback. If only they had cast Mirella Freni in this production. It would have been an even more powerful and moving version of the work. Mirella Freni was quite fine vocal-wise at this time and she had worked with Placido Domingo on other ocassions. Get this version or watch it only for Domingo's Cavaradossi and Cornell's Scarpia, who is devilish and electrifying. But Behrens not only looks too old but sings in the cold, detached Birgit Nilsson/Wagnerian style that doesn't always work in Tosca. ...more info
  • Tosca! Rome! Youth!
    Tosca was the first opera I ever saw, in 1964, from the last row of the topmost balcony of the Rome Opera. I went expecting not to be impressed, feeling a twenty-something surliness toward "bourgeois" art. Fortunately, it was a grand production, though I can't remember who sang or conducted, and I've loved opera ferociously ever since. I was living at the time in an apartment just outside the Campo dei Fiori, with a close-up view out my window of the great domed church of San Andrea, where the first act of Tosca unfolds. The opera stage was a near-perfect recreation of that church, where I often sat and thought. I'd never seen such stagecraft before, and the recollection of its impact makes me think that opera should always maintain its tradition of visual magnificence, if only to dazzle the neophyte.
    I've kept that apartment for nearly forty years now, and being there for a few days, I watched this Tosca. How could I give it less than five stars, when it seems so true to what I saw first? I have to agree with the review by "fiordiligi" that Behrens isn't Tosca, however well she sings. Domingo is almost too forceful for Cavaradossi, that eternal wuss in revolutionary plumage, but who can complain about such vocal command? The character who makes Tosca, however, is Scarpia, a villain so odious one anticipates his destruction gleefully even after seeing the opera many times. It's the villains who make melodrama appealing; the heroes are always mawkish or wispy, and the heroines are never quite fully human. Cornell MacNeil is superb as Scarpia, both vocally and visually. He's not much of a physical actor, I suppose, but the skillful use of camera close-ups reveals his face to be a mobile mask of hatefulness. The cinematography of this DVD is so good that I have to place it on a par with the singing. If you can't afford time-travel to Rome in 1964, I'd say this is at least a fine evening's consolation....more info
  • The Greatest Live Performance Of Puccini's Tosca
    In March of 1985, the Metropolitan broadcast on tv a live performance of Puccini's Tosca starring the celebrated tenor Placido Domingo and the dramatic soprano Hildegard Behrens in the lead roles of Tosca and Caravadossi. Cornell Mcneill performs a sensationally wicked Scarpia. This Met broadcast is now available on DVD and it sounds incredible. The production was the brainchild of Franco Zefferelli, the outstanding film director and his authentic touch is expressed in the costumes and scenery realistically depicting Rome, Italy in the aftermath of Napoleon. This DVD is a must have for fans of Placido Domingo, Zefferelli, soprano Hildegard Behrens and the devilish Scarpia portrayed by the incredible baritone Cornell McNeill. The strength of Puccini's Tosca lies squarely in its drama. The opera was drawn from the French play by Victorien Sardou. Melodrama marks the whole of the plot. Scarpia is jealous that the revolutionary idealist artist Mario Caravadossi has won Tosca's heart., Determined to have Tosca for himself he arranges for the romantic artist hero to be executed. Tosca, deeply heartbroken, leaps to her death from a high building. The music is perhaps Puccini's most dramatic (only Turandot reaches such heights). Observe such dramatic moments when chorus and orchestra swell into a crescendo in the scene in which a religious ceremony is conducted in the Cathedral. In this scene, Scarpia declares his lust for Tosca - "Tosca you make me forget God" and the direct polarity between the sacred chorus and the profane vocals of the mendacious Scarpia is climatic.

    The talents of Domingo and Mcneill are really what make this opera so great. Mcneill's Scarpia is dead-on in its majestic malice. His dark cloak and clothes, his dramatic inflection into his arias and his commanding presence make him by far one of the greatest interpretors of the role. Samuel Ramey, of late, has come to reach equal heights as Mcneill in his performance as Scarpia. Domingo is the very essence of Caravadossi- artistic, romantic and heroic. Domingo's voice is divine and his acting above reproach. Domingo, in fact, is living proof that tenors are not just singers but also actors. Domingo far outshines even Pavarotti, who sings without any real dramatic focus nor puts anything into the drama of his roles. Domingo, on the other hand, is an actor with a powerful and lyric voice. Domingo's art has stretched beyond the limits of the stage and on to film - Rosi's Carmen and Zefferelli's La Traviata and he has been a conductor as well as opera artistic director. As for Behrens, her Tosca looks good and sounds good, satisfying, dramatic but not up to paar with such legends as Maria Callas, Leontine Price, Mirella Freni or Grace Bumbry, all who have performed incredible Toscas in their careers. Conductor Sinopoli and his orchestra pack a powerful punch in what is one of opera's greatest melodramas. A must have for fans....more info

  • This one is for us ladies.
    If you are female and looking for a production of TOSCA, look no further. Placido Domingo is at his peak here. He looks marvellous, acts beautifully and his singing is beyond superlatives. I am not even going to try. Ladies, after watching this, I went to bed and dreamt of Mario Cavaradossi and how I would NEVER have put him in danger!

    Before I get to the opera itself there are two marvellous extras on this DVD - THANK YOU, DEUTSCHE GRAMMAPHON. In one Franco Zeffirelli takes you on a tour of the three Roman locations of the opera and discusses his view on the relationships between the three main characters. The other is an interview with Ms. Behrens, Mr. Domingo (drool) and Mr. Macneil.

    I am at a loss to understand complaints that Ms. Behrens looks too old. She is not supposed to be a movie actress but an opera singer. How many very young opera stars are there? Anyway, why can't Cavaradossi fall in love with a woman older than he is?

    That said, the perfect Tosca would be perfectly balanced between the three main characters. Here, Mr. Domingo is just so much better than the other two that the production is out of kilter. Mr. Zeffirelli explains that he sees Scarpia as a dangerously attractive man, and that Tosca is attracted despite herself. In killing him, she is striking out at that unwelcome attraction as well.

    That sounds great, but neither Mr. Macneil nor Ms. Behrens can bring it off. Scarpia comes off as real nasty, though Mr. Macneil's singing, and his acting in the death scene are tremendous. He is particularly good at the end of Act I, where his positively blasphemous thoughts are expressed against the choral backdrop of the Te Deum. Ms. Behren's voice came across too thin, to me, except in "vissi d'arte". She was excellent in Act III.

    The sets and staging are gorgeous. That alone makes the opera worth buying....more info