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Ira Siff
Opera News, October 2011

One can only sigh at the thought of being able to choose between vintage 1955 performances by Callas and Tebaldi—surely a chore that any opera fan of today would love to tackle.

For this performance, broadcast by the BBC, Covent Garden boasted not one but three Italian stars: Tebaldi was partnered by Ferruccio Tagliavini as Cavaradossi and Tito Gobbi as Scarpia. Tebaldi practiced some of the Tosca traditions shared by her distinguished Italian predecessors, including a number of extraneous sobs and sounds favored by sopranos of the verismo tradition. In some instances, these effects sound applied but nonetheless lend atmosphere; in any case, these expressive devices add to our awareness that this sort of idiomatic Italian Tosca is just about extinct today. 

In 1955, the Tebaldi instrument was still fresh and largely pliant: she easily meets the demands of the role…

Gobbi is in superb voice here. Covent Garden regulars Howell Glynne, Michael Langdon and Ronald Lewis are excellent as the Sacristan, Angelotti and Spoletta respectively. Francesco Molinari-Pradelli may not be a De Sabata musically, or a Mitropoulos dramatically, but the performance gives a nod to all the important moments, which is essential in this opera. The BBC sound is quite listenable…

Ralph V Lucano
American Record Guide, September 2011

Tebaldi…sings so beautifully…and with such power and richness…Molinari-Pradelli is a capable, well-seasoned conductor. The sound is fairly good in that the voices come through clearly...

To read the complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.

Barry Bassis
The Epoch Times, July 2011

Renata Tebaldi made her triumphant Covent Garden debut in June 1955 and her performance of the title role of Puccini’s Tosca…the performance is, in certain respects, timeless. Tebaldi’s only competitor as the leading soprano of the era was Maria Callas, whose superlative studio recording of Tosca is often voted by critics as the best opera recording of all time.

But Tebaldi is a force of nature, the music flowing out of her and her acting is quite moving, even on a recording. The immense applause after Vissi d’arte attests to the potency of her performance.

In sum, for Tebaldi fans, this recording is irresistible.

Robert Levine, May 2011

This recording, from the BBC vaults, documents Renata Tebaldi’s Covent Garden debut (or, more specifically, the second night of her debut season), in later June, 1955. She is joined by the distinguished and beloved Ferrucccio Tagliavini and Tito Gobbi, and if the whole somehow manages to amount to less than the sum of its parts, it still has the most formidable parts.

Tebaldi’s voice is remarkably fresh and secure, with all five high Cs in place and offering no problems; the registers are perfectly knit and the sound grand, beautiful, and womanly. She cheats in the “Ora stammi a sentir” monologue by traveling up to and down from the soft B-flat staccato rather than connected, as it’s written (I’ve heard Leontyne Price do the same, and it still isn’t right), which is easier for opulent voices, but elsewhere she is the very model of a major Tosca. If her jealousy, outrage, regality, anger, and desperation are all a bit generic, well, she wasn’t the amazingly insightful one—she was the one with the gorgeous tone. But her timing, sincerity, dramatic intensity, and true Italianata are non-existent nowadays and her sheer “prima donna-ness” is grand. “Vissi d’arte”, even with some odd rubato, is ravishing; it almost sounds new here, and the very sedate Covent Garden audience reacts with an ovation.

By 1955 lyric tenor Ferruccio Tagliavini, nine years Tebaldi’s senior, had taken on heavier roles like Cavaradossi and left comparisons with Tito Schipa behind. We get little of the amazing sweetness that filled his recordings of, say, L’amico Fritz and La sonnambula, although his “E lucevan le stelle” is exquisitely sculpted. The voice responds to the heavier singing, if with some leather, and his top notes are effective—and he is, as he always was, inherently musical. He and Tebaldi are all we could want in the last act; I’m surprised that the audience does not erupt with joy more than once.

Tito Gobbi of course is sui generis. From his opening, snarling statement in church, through his lascivious, sneering, “Ebbene” and disgusting “Tosca, finalmente mia” and even beyond, he terrifies. Dangerous, potent, and able to shade his tone from huge and menacing to intimate and oily, he still is the man to go to for Scarpia’s dreadful outpourings. He is in his best voice, and anyone familiar with his 1953 recording with Callas will welcome yet another go-round of evil personified from him.

…the relatively newly-released 1962 Met performance with Corelli and Price is a roof-raiser and is also highly recommended.

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