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
“Tito Gobbi was an admired operatic baritone. He originally studied at Padua University for a career in law, but he eventually gave that up in favor of pursuing voice lessons in Rome with Giulio Crimi. He made his operatic début in the town of Gubbio in 1935, as Count Rodolfo in Bellini's LA SONNAMBULA. He was hired at Milan's La Scala for the 1935-1936 season as an understudy; his first appearance there was as the Herald in Ildebrando Pizzetti's ORESEOLO.
He won the international singing competition in Vienna in 1936. As a result he began getting improved billing; he sang the rôle of Germont in LA TRAVIATA at the Teatro Reale in Rome in 1937. In the same year he sang Lelio in Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari's LE DONNE CURIOSE, and continued singing secondary rôles through 1939 there. He was promoted to primary rôles and in 1941 sang Ford in Verdi's FALSTAFF during a visit by the company to Berlin in 1941. Meanwhile, in a guest appearance at Rieti he first sang the rôle of Scarpia in Puccini's TOSCA in 1940. This was to become his best-known part.
Gobbi made his La Scala début in a major rôle in 1942 as Belcore in L'ELISIR D'AMORE. However, the performance that made him famous was as Wozzeck in the first Italian performance of Alban Berg's opera in Rome in November, 1942. Fighting raged throughout Italy following the Allied invasions there in 1943, interrupting his career. After the war he began to include international appearances. He first appeared in Stockholm in 1947 as Rigoletto; in 1948 he went to Covent Garden in concerts and to San Francisco to début as Figaro in Rossini's BARBER OF SEVILLE. His London operatic début was at Covent Garden as Belcore when the La Scala Company toured there. He appeared in Chicago in 1954 as Rossini's Figaro, and débuted at the Metropolitan Opera Company as Scarpia, 13 January, 1956. He sang Don Giovanni in Salzburg in 1952 under von Karajan's direction.
He took up producing as well, often at Chicago, where he made regular appearances, and producing opera became an ever more important part of his career after 1965, which is when he produced a performance starring himself in the title rôle of Verdi's SIMON BOCCANEGRA in London.
Although he was particularly well known for his portrayal of Verdi's baritone rôles (including Posa in DON CARLOS), and of Puccini's (Scarpia, Jack Rance, Gianni Schicchi), he had a very large repertory of well over 100 rôles, including such rare operas as Malipiero's ECUBA (as Ulysses), Teprulov in Rocca's MONTE IVNOR, the Count of Albaforita in Persico's LA LOCANDIERA, and operas by Lualdi, Napoli, and Ghedini. He was an excellent actor, had a high degree of musicianship and intelligence, had a flexible, rich, but not large baritone voice, and was at home in a wide variety of parts. He also appeared in 26 movies. He was the brother-in-law of another eminent singer, Boris Christoff. Gobbi retired from the operatic stage in 1979. He published an autobiography (TITO GOBBI: MY LIFE, 1979) and TITO GOBBI AND HIS WORLD OF ITALIAN OPERA (1984). He left a significant legacy of recorded performances, mainly made in the 1950s and 1960s.”
- Joseph Stevenson, allmusic.com