Monday 19 November 2012


Call me unadventurous.  Call me a traditionalist.  Call me a BOF.  Whatever.  But my favourite opera is, without a moment's hesitation, Tosca.

For me, there is no single audio
recording of Tosca that does it justice.  I mean, would you ever buy an audio CD of a famous stage play?  So why is it that Opera recordings remain so popular in audio-only media?  For me, you really need to see the performance.  It is surely hard to fully appreciate it otherwise.  That is why I am here recommending a DVD (also available on Blu-ray). And why this one?  Well, actually, I have just finished watching a broadcast of this performance on the "HI-FI" cable channel in glorious HD on my Home Theatre.  Karita Mattila and Jonas Kaufman headline the cast under the baton of Fabio Luisi and the Bavarian State Opera.  And personally, I really enjoyed Juha Uusilato's romp as Scarpia.

Scarpia is the ultimate villain.  A good Scarpia all but twirls his moustache and ties Tosca to the railway tracks, and the part is a superbly written vehicle for the Bass voice.  It is a role for the operatic Basso to both ham it up and strut his chops.  And, despite your protests to the contrary, Tosca really is an Opera demanding an over-the-top melodramatic performance.

If you want an audio-only version, what would I recommend?  My personal choice is the Decca recording featuring Pavarotti, Freni, and Milnes, with Nicola Rescigno conducting the National Philharmonic Orchestra back in 1972, before Pavarotti rose to prominence as an international superstar.  There are many worthy others.

But do yourself a favour and watch a high-quality performance, such as the one I've recommended here.  And if you're clever, you can even track down snippets of most of it on YouTube.