I have 20 dvd's of Puccini's Tosca- most official releases and a few bootlegs (telecasts never released on video). They range from the 1950's to this latest release from 2011. And THIS one is the best of them all. The combination of all-star cast, terrific traditional staging and sets, and superb sound and video make this a must have for any opera fan. This is the one to get and watch again and again.
Let me start with the cast:
Angela Gheorghiu- I see from comments on this and other websites that she is a controversial soprano. You either love her or you hate her. Put me in the big fan category. I've loved her from her major debut in Covent Garden's "Traviata" (still the one to get). I am a huge fan of her voice. It has a hooded tone that to me is very appealing. (Although I can't exactly describe it, I'd call it the exact opposite of shrill.) She soars and emotes, an all with perfect pitch. She's still very beautiful (important in this role). And, as she says in brief interview comments, she IS Tosca. True, true. She is a real diva (with all its positive and negative ramifications), and this role is the essential Gheorghiu. She inhabits it totally. So, her performance is totally committed and extremely effective.
Bryn Terfel- He is my favorite opera performer, and Scarpia is just perfect for him as well. He has perfected the blend of evil, lust, power, terror and fatalism into a terrifying performance. He is totally convincing- both as a singer and an actor. He perfectly enacts each line of text with the right physical gesture. (Kudos, of course, to stage director Jonathan Kent here as well.) I've seen comments on this performance which point out that he is unshaven and a little slovenly in dress/hair. True- and it works very well as his Rome, like him, is in disarray (and falls by the end of the opera). Masterful.
Jonas Kaufmann- he is the more recent sensation, being busy conquering the opera world in the last few years. His spirito tenor voice is perfect here- and he always looks like the romantic hero. (He has the most perfect hair in all opera.) I thought him particularly effective in his Act one duets with Tosca.
Antonio Pappano- Despite owning hundreds of opera dvd's and CD's, and attending more than 20 opera performances a year, I still find myself unable to appropriately assess/analyze a conductor's work. It's just too subtle for me to pick out (other them tempo- which is only a small part of his work). All I can say, which I do here, is that the opera flows perfectly, and he puts the musical emphasis to the physical action in just the right way. I think he's terrific- but, again, I don't really feel qualified to evaluate it.
The traditional sets are huge and terrific. Costumes, too. This is the best looking Tosca, I've seen. Also, the filming and sound are superb- get the Blu Ray if you can!! There is an 8 minute look at the opera by Pappano that is good, but WAY too short. I would have liked quite a bit more, including more rehearsal footage.
Tosca is, of course, one of the most frequently performed opera in the repertoire- a real war horse in every sense of the word. It is over played and over melo-dramatic. But when done right, it is a terrific piece of musical theater. This performance, perfectly captured on the blu ray disc, is excellent and should be in every fan's collection,. And, it is just the latest in a series of recent releases from Covent Garden that, to my mind, have them on top of the opera world. (See- Bizet: Carmen; Massenet: Cendrillon, Tchaikovsky: Cherevichki - The Tsarina's Slippers [Blu-ray] Yes, better than the Met, Paris, la Scala, Zurich, Madrid and Barcelona (in terms of dvd releases). Keep it up!!!