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Dynamic DVD 33569
19 Apr 2010

Tosca at Torre del Lago, 2007

Opera festival DVDs often seem to be produced as tempting advertisements meant to induce viewers to consider a trip to that festival for the next season.

Giacomo Puccini: Tosca

Floria Tosca: Antonia Cifrone; Mario Cavaradossi: Stefano Secco; Il barone Scarpia: Giorgio Surian; Cesare Angelotti: Riccardo Ferrari; Spoletta: Massimo La Guardia; Il Sagrestano: Franco Boscolo; Sciarone: Fernado Ciuffo. Orchestra and Chorus of Festival Puccini. Conductor: Valerio Galli. Director: Mario Corradi. Festival Puccini, Torre del Lago, 2007.

Dynamic 33569 [2DVDs]

$39.49  Click to buy

Thus, this recording of Tosca at the 2007 Puccini festival in Torre del Lago opens with a travelogue sequence, with beautiful shots of the lake and then film of the handsomely attired audience arriving for the show. The actual staging may not be to the taste of every potential opera tourist, but the ecstatic response of the live audience, as recorded, suggests that a good time is there for the having.

Igor Mitoraj’s sets aren’t much more than a few short pedestals and a canopy bed oddly situated in Scarpia’s office, all lain out in front of what appears to be an open backstage, clothed in darkness. As is typical in these minimalist set stagings, the costumes (also by Mitoraj) offer more visual interest, if not originality. Some may wonder why in act two, Tosca’s gown for the cantata features a red serpent pinned to her breast. These same wondering folk may ask why Scarpia’s henchmen are already on stage as the opera opens, ambling away casually as Angelotti, supposedly breathless, stands stock still. An opera as popular as Tosca leads directors to search out fresh approaches, but director Mario Corradi’s ideas mostly smack of desperation. He does manage a fairly nice twist with “Vissi d’arte,” however, with Scarpia leading Tosca onto his bed, from where she sings her prayer while he lounges next to her, patiently awaiting his sensual reward.

Antonia Ciffrone has all the physical attributes of a great Tosca - a wild mane of black hair, beauty and sensuality, a passion veering into the hysterical. The voice, while nothing special, manages the role’s challenges without too much stress. Even better is Stefano Secco as Cavaradossi. Handsomer men have taken the role, but Secco sounds like a major tenor here, keeping a lyric line and yet able to muster the power for the more violent passages. Scarpias often steal the show, but not here, with Giorgio Surian bellowing and warbling, while offering nothing new to the usual portrayal of the sadistic lecher.

The Festival Puccini orchestra, surprisingly, sounds tentative at times under Valerio Galli’s baton, especially the slightly sickly winds. They seem to be a smaller force as well, under-powered at key moments. The audio is clear and clean but with a flat perspective that suggests either amplification or the most perfectly placed microphones imaginable.

The market does not lack for greater versions of this Puccini masterpiece, but for those who love this opera, this DVD will still prove of some entertainment value.

Chris Mullins

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