New Magee/Kaufmann/ Hampson Tosca on DVD

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New Magee/Kaufmann/ Hampson Tosca on DVD

I probably shouldn't fire off after having watched only Act 1 - but frankly, Act 1 is enough for me: I doubt I'll be in a hurry to watch the rest, if indeed I ever do.

I never realised that Tosca - that seemingly indestructible masterpiece ('shabby shocker' buried within and all: THAT should carry even inept producers) - could be so dull. The singing certainly isn't dull (especially from Kaufmann), and there are very musical noises coming from the pit (although the rather cautious tempi hardly help matters): but, oh, what an irritating hash-up of a stage production!

It's set in an opera house. Desperately obvious, and, actually, unhelpful to the storyline, because while the points about Tosca being an opera singer and living in a watched police state are very easily grasped, the drama really does revolve around the story in the libretto. The story is more than enough. I don't think it has to be set around the early 19th century - but the tensions within the story need to be respected if text, music and setting are to be understood.

Much of Act 1 is about the tension between the religious and the (increasingly sinister) secular, culminating in Scarpia's great lustful solo set against the church choir's Te Deum - the love of power, and the flesh, versus the love of God. Here Thomas Hampson's Scarpia, already emasculated in a dreary setting (he seems like a drably seedy Italian politician caught out in some sex scandal), has for his dramatic contrast - and it really is a gift for carpet-chewing excitement - a chorus of opera-goers, politely shown to their seats, who on cue unrealistically turn to the pit and belt out the Te Deum.

This really is hopeless stuff, decent musical values contending with wrong-headed direction. My suggestion would be to avoid it.

John

RE: New Magee/Kaufmann/Hampson Tosca on DVD

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