OP0172. TOSCA, recorded 1953, w.de Sabata Cond. La Scala Ensemble; Maria Callas, Tito Gobbi, Giuseppe di Stefano, etc. (Germany) 2-EMI 7471758, Slipcase Edition with full libretto. Final Sealed Copy! - 077774717588
“[There are] countless indelible moments in an account of TOSCA that has often been called the greatest opera recording ever made. Even though it was done in the studio, Callas, Giuseppe di Stefano (as the idealistic Mario) and Tito Gobbi (as the villainous police chief Scarpia) are thrillingly alive and subtle for the towering maestro Victor de Sabata and the forces of the Teatro alla Scala in Milan. It’s hard to think of a recording of any opera that nails a work so stunningly, that seems so definitive….That achievement is built moment by moment. In just the first 90 seconds of this TOSCA, the incisive attack and hurtling energy of de Sabata’s conducting hook you, starting with the malignant grandeur of Scarpia’s theme. Yet this conductor also brings shape and direction to Puccini’s frenzied bursts of descending chords, which cut off at the ends of staggered mini-phrases, as if the orchestra is gasping for breath. As the music subsides into searching, suspenseful quiet — the escaped political prisoner Angelotti is fumbling in a shadowy church — de Sabata draws out mournful undercurrents.”
- Anthony Tommasini, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 29 Dec., 2017
"Callas, and all of the cast, would need to be single-minded in their pursuit of perfection when they moved north to Milan to record what was clearly the headline project, Tosca onstage at La Scala. As well as solving the practical problems of finding a chorus and an orchestra, the La Scala connection was another marketing inspiration. Nothing 'said' Italian opera more clearly in North America than La Scala. By the first week of August 1953 Legge and his engineers were installed in the theatre. A recent revival of Tosca meant orchestra and chorus were already well inside the work. It had been conducted by Victor de Sabata, the formidable de facto music director of La Scala. His daughter Eleana calls him 'the brain and the heart of that theatre'. The first session was planned for August 10. Outside the theatre, and so inside too, the thermometer climbed relentlessly. It was the hottest summer Milan had known for over a decade. 'I remember my father always conducting in a suit as if he was going to an office and certainly not to sweat on the podium. He never changed the way he dressed even when he was rehearsing,' Eleana recalls, 'but that recording was different. It was so hot, I have a picture in my mind of my father wearing a shirt with short sleeves, which is unbelievable for him!'. For Callas, for Gobbi, for de Sabata himself, this TOSCA had been perhaps the most intensive recording project they would ever undertake. And yet, despite the heat, despite the extended recording schedule and the temperament, for once everything locked into place. Callas and her co-stars had set new performance standards for Puccini’s opera which many feel have yet to be surpassed on record. And for the soprano’s many fans, just about everything you need to know about her talent, her unique dramatic gifts and the interpretative power of a truly magnificent singing actress Is here on this recording."
- Christopher Cook, GRAMOPHONE, June, 2007
"In the special world of opera on disc, there are a handful of sets which by general consent are ideal….In this elite company belongs Sabata’s TOSCA. It is a complete theatrical experience, and within the architectural mastery of Sabata’s performance, Callas paints the Tosca which previously she has only sketched….This was Callas’ first Tosca to the Scarpia of Gobbi, a brief but celebrated operatic association….One plays to the other, draws strength from the other, and they exchange dramatic blows much like a pair of champions in a title bout. Actually, given Sabata’s mesmerizing influence, the match is a three-sided one. But opera being an arena which makes its own rules, the winner is none of the three but a fourth – Puccini."
- John Ardoin, THE CALLAS LEGACY, pp.69-70