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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Puccini: Tosca

06/08/2014 1:00 pm
06/08/2014 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

When this immortal work of Puccini's first reached the stage in 1900 there were certain critics who weren't impressed with the bloodshed of the story and the overblown passions of the protagonists. Some complained that the plot, adapted from the play by the French playwright Victorien Sardou, was totally substandard. George Bernard Shaw thought of Sardou's La Tosca as an empty-headed shocker, yet he confessed prophetically, "Oh, if it had but been an opera!"

Puccini's Tosca fulfilled Shaw's expectations. Today nobody minds it that this opera is really "over the top." I have presented Tosca four times before over going-on three decades of opera broadcasting. The title role has been the vehicle for many an ambitious soprano.

The esteemed Hungarian soprano Eva Marton took it on for the Sony Classical recording I aired on Sunday, May 5, 1991, with superstar tenor Jose Carreras as Cavaradossi. Michael Tilson Thomas was conducting. Then on Sunday,September 14, 1997 it was the Iranian-born Alexander Rahbari conducting and Miriam Gauci as the heroine in a Belgian National Radio and TV production (a Koch International CD release). On Sunday, June 1, 2003 that greatest of twentieth century divas Maria Callas was heard opposite her tenor of choice Giuseppe DiStefano portraying Cavaradossi. The recording was the historic 1952 Mexico City stage production (Opera D'Oro CD reissue of the old mono tapes). That same year on November 2, I aired the EMI Classics CD reissue of the 1953 La Scala production in Milan. Callas and DiStefano were back together again, this time joined by that greatest of Italian baritones Tito Gobbi as the villain Baron Scarpia.

Listen today for another historic recording of Tosca coming to us from Sony Classical in its recent "The Metropolitan Opera" series of issues of airtapes of live broadcasts from the Met. Kurt Adler was conducting the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra during the broadcast on April 17, 1962. The distinguished African-American soprano Leontyne Price is the singer Floria Tosca,with Italian tenor Franco Corelli as the painter and revolutionary Mario Cavaradossi.