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This June 1955 performance of Puccini’s Tosca marked Renata Tebaldi’s first appearance with the Covent Garden Company. The roles of Cavaradossi and Scarpia were filled by two of Italy’s finest singers, Ferruccio Tagliavini (Cavaradossi) and Tito Gobbi (Scarpia). All three went on to make memorable studio recordings for Decca, Cetra and EMI.
The Times wrote on 29 June 1955, the day after the first performance of the revival, ‘The performance was tremendous, not only in the singing, which was up to the heroic standards of the past, but in dramatic tension’. The conductor came in for particular praise, ‘Mr Molinari-Pradelli gave no quarter to his singers and extracted every ounce of power out of the orchestra’.
Of Tebaldi’s Tosca, The Times wrote, ‘With an imposing presence, a fine voice, and a sure judgement of dramatic gesture she made Tosca credible and sympathetic in phrases that were moulded to exploit every intonation of her voice’.
The same critic praised Ferruccio Tagliavini, ‘his voice is generous. his mezza voice is pleasing and his tone does not harden in forte passages’ while Tito Gobbi’s Scarpia was described as ‘an aristocrat corrupted by power’.
Giacomo Puccini: Tosca
Act I: Ah! Finalmente! … E sempre lava! (Angelotti, Sagrestano, Cavaradossi)
Act I: Dammi i colori … Recondita armonia (Cavaradossi, Sagrestano)
Act I: Gente la dentro! (Cavaradossi, Angelotti, Tosca)
Act I: Mario! Mario! Mario! (Tosca, Cavaradossi)
Act I: Ah, quegli occhi (Tosca, Cavaradossi)
Act I: E buona la mia Tosca … Siam soli? … Sommo giubilo, Eccellenza! (Cavaradossi, Angelotti, Sagrestano, Chorus)
Act I: Un tal baccano in chiesa! (Scarpia, Sagrestano, Spoletta)
Act I: Or tutto e chiaro … Mario?! Mario?! (Scarpia, Tosca, Sagrestano)
Act I: Ed io venivo a lui tutta dogliosa (Tosca, Scarpia)
Act I: Tre sbirri … Una carrozza … Adjutorum nostrum in nomine Domini (Scarpia, Spoletta, Chorus)
Act II: Tosca e un buon falco! (Scarpia, Sciarrone)
Act II: Ha piu forte sapore la conquista violenta … Spoletta e giunto (Scarpia, Sciarrone, Spoletta)
Act II: Meno male! - Egli e la (Scarpia, Spoletta, Cavaradossi)
Act II: Nel pozzo del giardino … Eccellenza, quali nuove! … Vittoria! Vittoria! (Scarpia, Cavaradossi, Tosca, Sciarrone)
Act II: Se la giurata fede debbo tradir (Scarpia, Tosca)
Act II: Vissi d'arte (Tosca, Scarpia)
Act II: Vedi, le man giunte io stendo a te! (Tosca, Scarpia, Spoletta)
Act II: E qual via scegliete? … Tosca, finalmente mia! (Scarpia, Tosca)
Act III: Io de' sospiri (Pastore)
Act III: Mario Cavaradossi? A voi … (Carceriere, Cavaradossi)
Act III: E lucevan le stelle (Cavaradossi)
Act III: Ah! Franchigia a Floria Tosca … (Cavaradossi, Tosca)
Act III: O dolci mani … Senti … l'ora e vicina (Cavaradossi, Tosca)
Act III: E non giungono (Tosca, Cavaradossi, Carceriere)
Act III: Come e lunga l'attesa! (Tosca)
Act III: Presto, su! Mario! Mario! … E lei (Tosca, Sciarrone, Spoletta, Soldiers)
“Tebaldi's voice is remarkably fresh and secure, with all five high Cs in place and offering no problems, the registers perfectly knit and the sound grand, beautiful and womanly...Gobbi, is, of course, sui generis. From his opening, snarling statement in church, through his lascivious, sneering 'Ebbene' and disgusting 'Tosca, finalmente mia' and even beyond, he terrifies.”
“Tebaldi's heady tone is equal to every one of the role's musical demands, while dramatically she proves an engaged and potent heroine...[Gobbi's Scarpia] as always is dramatically thrilling; though not the greatest voice for the brutal police chief, Gobbi's baritone arguably provides more theatrical frisson than any other exponent. Francesco Molinari-Pradelli is an idiomatic conductor of very respectable forces.”