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Subject: Tosca in general
From: Les Mitnick <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Les Mitnick <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sun, 18 Jun 2017 16:22:04 -0400

text/plain (54 lines)

It kind of surprises me (a little) that Tosca should generate so much discussion here.  
Perhaps I've tired of it, but I of course was greatly thrilled by it when I first heard it as a 
teen.  Of course I was raised on the legendary Callas/di Stefano/Gobbi - de Sabada 
recording, but I also later acquired those Tosca recordings with Tebaldi, Milanov, Caballe, 
Freni, Price, and others.
      Denounce me as a Philistine if you will, but I have a hard time wrapping my head 
around the fact that every great soprano with an even moderate sized voice has taken on 
Tosca.  Rosa Ponselle was a very wise artist.  She is the only major great soprano who, 
to my knowledge, never went near it.  Freni recorded it twice, but (also to my 
knowledge) never attempted Tosca onstage.
      The role itself, while glamorous and containing the "Visi d'Arte", is to my ears very 
punishing for the soprano voice.  Of course, it's the second act that's so dangerous, what 
with all that screaming and carrying-on with Scarpia to be interrupted by the need for a 
perfectly beautiful and controlled vocal line for the aria, followed by more screaming and 
carrying on to the end of the act ------ which makes me wonder why so many truly great 
sopranos have chosen to undertake it.  The third act is no piece of cake either.
      I was very disappointed that Sondra Radvanovsky choose to do Tosca on the stage. In 
my opinion, I can't see why a notable Norma would even want to bother with Tosca. Most 
of Callas' Toscas were at the end of her career, with just a small number peppered during 
her prime years (the Met, where Bing offered her little else other than Violetta and Lucia 
and those debut Normas).  She herself admitted her dislike for the role.   Albanese, who 
actually had a huge enough top (surprisingly), managed to achieve a good success with it 
at the Met in 1952 and 1957).  Tebaldi had the beauty of appearance, a huge voice, and 
could manage the top Cs well enough prior to 1960.  After that, the extreme uppermost 
portion of her voice (B and C) was a matter of pot luck.  But she still could deliver a 
grand and valid Tosca.  Finally, despite two complete studio recordings (and a 1962 
performance on Sony from the Met), Leontyne Price also discarded the role.
     The best Tosca I ever heard onstage was Regine Crespin, who produced a second act 
(with Gobbi) that remains forever burned into my brain ------- and her voice at the time 
was huge and abundant right up to the top C.  But by the late 1960's, she dropped the 
role and never made a commercial recording of it.  I never saw Callas do it, except on 
those two videos of Act II from 1958 and 1964), but I can certainly see why she caused 
so much excitement in it).
     Dorothy Kirsten is to me an amazing and vastly under-rated soprano.  She sang all 
the Puccini roles with great distinction, stopping only at Turandot.  How she managed it is 
still a mystery to me.  I think she was a victim of bad timing (singing in a generation that 
already had Callas, Tebaldi, Milanov, Steber, Price, Crespin, etc.)
     Bottom line:  Tosca can be as dangerous for the voice as Turandot.  It's a very "big 
sing" and I think it's popularity has encouraged a lot of sopranos to undertake it, and 
some have paid a price.  Smarter artists try to sing it as little as possible.  Others should 
follow Ponselle's and Freni's example and not sing it at all.  

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