OP2194. TOSCA, Live Performance, 7 April, 1962, w.Kurt Adler Cond. Leontyne Price, Franco Corelli, Cornell MacNeil, Ezio Flagello, etc. 2-Sony 88697 80468. Specially priced. - 886978046826
“Two complete commercial recordings of TOSCA attest to Price’s prowess in the rôle, but the [above] broadcast will be prized as a rare ‘live' performance from early in her career….Her vocal health is immediately confirmed in the love duet, and that state of well being would remain constant for the next quarter century and beyond….[Corelli’s] vocal massage is a treat for any who love tenorizing on a grand scale. His wonderfully flamboyant reading provokes a major ovation….Whatever else Corelli offers, he does have plenty of heart….The duet demonstrates incontestably that Price and Corelli are vocal deities who belong in an Italian Valhalla….In size and technical security, MacNeil’s instrument is the equal of his cohorts’, and its opulence…arouses similar admiration….He is in magnificent vocal form….On this broadcast of vocal giants, the leading trio is augmented by Flagello’s rolling bass.”
- Paul Jackson, SIGN-OFF FOR THE OLD MET, pp.433-35
“Wonderful singing plays a prominent rôle from the start in this recording. Judging from the amount of audience laughter, Ezio Flagello was a hilarious Sacristan, but his vocal antics are kept to a dignified minimum, proving that it is possible to do a character rôle justice while singing it beautifully. When Flagello is joined by Corelli, one is in danger of whiplash, as the listener's head turns toward the speaker in disbelief. Could it really have been this gorgeous? At that point in his career, yes. The high B-flat capping ‘Recondita armonia’ was one of those notes you never forget. But what may have been forgotten is the beauty and sensuality of the tricky opening phrases of the aria, sitting right on the passaggio. For all Corelli's stunts in this role — over-long held high notes (thank heaven!), the (appropriately) grand-standing ‘Vittoria!’ of Act II, the trademark endless diminuendo in ‘E lucevan le stelle’ (here with a tiny glitch as it passes from chest voice to head tone) — he also manages to present Cavaradossi as a vital human being, not just a tenor having a field day. In 1962, although already a bundle of nerves onstage, Corelli was still in spontaneous vocal form, and while the lack of video here misses his good looks, it also misses his tendency to fidget when under pressure. For his performance alone, this would be a recording worth releasing.
It's also a treat to have Cornell MacNeil's Scarpia documented in his prime. In 1962, the tone was mellifluous, the delivery easy and lyrical, although one doesn't always get the impressive volume heard in the house on this recording. MacNeil was one of the great postwar American baritones.
For a Verdi soprano, the parlando sections of the rôle of Tosca, particularly in Act I, can be quite tricky. [Pric’s] legato was breathtaking; her crystalline high notes not the standard stuff of Tosca's Act II outbursts. But though the onstage Price may not have been a match for some Met Toscas of the era — Callas, Rysanek, Albanese, etc. — the recorded Price is surprising. Her grasp of the requirements for the dialogue-driven Act I duet with Cavaradossi is admirable for a soprano with her vocal equipment. She works hard at tonal coloration and expression, and she succeeds wonderfully. In more lyrical passages, as expected, her singing is simply ravishing. Not only is ‘Vissi d'arte’ spun out in long phrases of great beauty and passion, so is Tosca's ‘Ed io venivo’ at the end of her Act I duet with Scarpia. And Price caps the Act III description of the murder of Scarpia with a long, incredibly stunning high C, followed by a gutsy plunge into chest voice. One must credit conductor Kurt Adler for the fact that the murder itself is neatly dispatched, rather than the disorganized musical mess it can be in live performance; Adler leads a well-paced performance in general.
In addition to Flagello, the supporting cast is comprised of familiar Met names of the period, all perfectly suited to their rôles. Especially fine is the Spoletta of Paul Franke. The digitally remastered sound quality is quite good. This is a TOSCA not only to remember but to own.”
- Ira Siff, OPERA NEWS, May, 2011