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Subject: Re: Tosca in general
From: tom ponti <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:tom ponti <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sun, 18 Jun 2017 20:53:00 +0000
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Some years ago I either read or heard some operatic expert say that Tosca will always be around because most sopranos want to sing the title role. Ponselle probably avoided the role due to the many high C's, just as she avoided Aida. I think that perhaps Freni was a bit too cautious, except for Elvira in Ernani which IMO was not at all suited for her voice. If Albanese and Kirsten were outstanding as Tosca, I would think that Freni could be too. The same is true with Butterfly. I saw Kirsten the night she came out of retirement, in her mid-late sixties, and gave a wonderful performance with Bergonzi and Mc Neil. That could have been the oldest Tosca cast of all time? Whatever all three were great. I was also very fond of Crespin's Tosca the night I saw her. Both she and Rysenak sang the role very well, but acted very differently. Leonie was all over the stage, whereas Regine commanded the stage with minimal movement. Leonie was better on top, Regine- mid and lower voice. Nilsson sang the role effortlessly, but her acting at times, was a bit silly.  Tosca may be a trashy little thriller to some but to most sopranos, a must sing role.  I doubt that Callas really disliked the role as she performed it 51 times, I would think, throughout her career.  It was certainly her best role the last five or more years of her career. I once saw Albanese and some other singers say that, vocally, Tebaldi was the best Tosca they had seen.


________________________________
From: Discussion of opera and related issues <[log in to unmask]> on behalf of Les Mitnick <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Sunday, June 18, 2017 4:22 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [OPERA-L] Tosca in general

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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