Source: Live performance from 1964.
Sound: No more than fair.
Documentation: The usual Opera d'Oro offering. No libretto. Short essay on the history of the opera. Short summary of the plot. Track list.
Maria Callas is a very, very great singer who appeared in far too many dismal opera productions.
This is another performance on which I find it difficult to base an objective opinion. I bought it in an attempt to capture Callas in one of her greatest roles in a live setting. Well, that's what I got. Callas is ... Callas, that is to say, she is tremendous. For this particular helping of her greatness, though, you have to give her the benefit of a lot of goodwill. Her mighty conception of Floria Tosca is still present in full force, but in 1964 her execution is not at all what it once had been.
Tito Gobbi is, well ... Gobbi, one of the all-time greats. But 1964 is late for him, too, and behind all his dramatic power and charisma you can all but hear his voice fraying away with each bar.
Then there is Renato Cioni. Ehh, the very thought of that man makes my teeth itch. At some point, Cioni possessed a nice, useful, second-class voice, the sort of thing that is invaluable for a house tenor who eases the load on a star performer. Somewhere along the line, though, he must have become convinced that he, himself, was a star. Now, Pavarotti, born as he was with a tremendous voice, got away on ego and a silly bag of tricks for many years. Cioni, born much lower on the tenorial evolutionary scale, couldn't carry it off for ten seconds. He is the anchor that drags down any performance, even Joan Sutherland's high-flying first recording of "Lucia." Here in "Tosca," Cioni is, alas ... Cioni.
If you want a great "Tosca" with Callas and Gobbi, get the studio recording with diStefano. If you absolutely must have a live Callas/Gobbi "Tosca," this one, at least, is not very expensive and it offers better sound than the live Mexico City version (also on Od'O), although the latter has attractions for those who like audience excitement.
In the normal course of events, I'd give this recording four stars for sub-par Callas and Gobbi, then deduct one or even two stars for the wretched Cioni. However, it appears that, unlikely as it may seem, some people actually have a taste for that man's tenorial whining, so ... four stars.