This was the second Tosca I acquired. The first time I had it it was on loan, and I had only three days to absorb what I could. At the time I was pleasantly familiar with Gobbi, and intensely burrowed in Frank Hamilton's records of Callas's career, so I knew (since it also had di Stefano) that this was something I should remember to buy. In those three days, I found the glory of Tosca in a way I never had before.
In an uncharacteristically logical approach, I started at the beginning. This is one of only a few recordings in my collection (and there are hundreds therein) where you can listen from the beginning and not be turned away by the comprimarii. The Spoletta, the Sciarrone, the Pastore, the Sagrestano, all done extremely well.
And, why don't I talk about the love triangle?
- Gobbi: The best Scarpia in existence. See my other reviews for details.
- Cioni: Not the most vibrant Cavaradossi, but gives a performance that, like Baum in Aída, blows away any vocal prejudice I may have previously had.
- Callas: Simply La Divina. She gives what is in my humble opinion the only real interpretation of Callas in existence. At this point, in interviews, we can find that she has a better understanding of the emotions behind the role. (It's the only thing for which one can thank Onassis. No need to discuss Omero.) Callas has been described as an artist in every manner.
In any case, anyone who wants to see what Callas is about: don't go for one role, one recording, one setting, one conductor, one partner in crime. The only way to truly understand what she was and what she did is to take in it all. So pick a recording. Any recording. See what you think.