Monday, 22 August 2011

August Opera Challenge Day Twenty One: Most Listened To Opera

Without a doubt, my most listened to opera is Puccini's Tosca. It is one of the first operas I got to know, and has remained a strong favourite for more than twenty years. Even when I was living away from home without my CD collection, I picked up the 1976 Sir Colin Davis recording ( Carreras, Caballe, Wixell) for a bargain price and played it constantly. The recording I listen to the most today is Victor de Sabata's recording with Callas, di Stefano and Gobbi, but I'm also big on dvds. There are so many great productions out there, but I think the one I enjoy the most is the Zubin Mehta conducted production from 1993, which took place in the real Roman locations in as close to real time as possible. It featured Catherine Malfitano, Placido Domingo and Ruggero Raimondi.

There are lots of reasons why Tosca is my favourite and most listened to opera- I love the drama and the strong emotions and I find all of the characters extremely compelling. Because there are just three key roles, the plot is very easy to become involved in, and the twists and turns keep you on the edge of your seat, even if you've seen the opera many times before. Most importantly, it features some of the most gorgeous and affecting music I've ever heard- the way Puccini merges all the real sounds of Rome into the score is so clever and lends Tosca a sense of realism that you would be hard pressed to find elsewhere. So much of what you hear doesn't even require the suspension of disbelief- the choir are singing a Te Deum in church because that's what choirs do, the shepherd song at dawn is to be expected and the bells that ring out are exactly what you'd hear if you vistied Rome. OK, not everyone condemned to death is going to spontaneously start singing E lucevan le stelle, but it is still, after all, an opera...

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