October 4, 2015

101 Reel-to-Reel Tapes 108: Renata Tebaldi ~ Tosca

Renata Tebaldi - Tosca
7½ ips reel-to-reel tape box
front cover
photo of tape box cover by Styrous®


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I started the Vinyl LP series because I have a collection of over 20,000 vinyl record albums I am selling; each blog entry is about an album from my collection. The 101 Reel-to-Reel Tapes series is an extension of that collection. Inquire for information here.   

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Tosca (Italian pronunciation: [ˈtoska]) is an opera in three acts by Giacomo Puccini. It premiered at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome on 14 January 1900. The work, based on Victorien Sardou's 1887 French-language dramatic play, La Tosca, is a melodramatic piece set in Rome in June 1800, with the Kingdom of Naples' control of Rome threatened by Napoleon's invasion of Italy. It contains depictions of torture, murder and suicide, as well as some of Puccini's best-known lyrical arias.

Puccini had seen the play, La Tosca, at least twice, in Milan and Turin. On 7 May 1889 he wrote to his publisher, Giulio Ricordi, begging him to get Sardou's permission for the work to be made into an opera: "I see in this Tosca the opera I need, with no overblown proportions, no elaborate spectacle, nor will it call for the usual excessive amount of music (so much for that)."  

Originally, the libretto, by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, was written for composer, Alberto Franchetti. One story goes that Franchetti was too busy with other projects at the time so passed it on to his friend Puccini. Another version is that Franchetti waived his rights to the opera because he felt that Puccini would make a better job of it - this is believed to have been stated by the Franchetti family. By some accounts, Ricordi convinced Franchetti that the work was too violent to be successfully staged, thus, passing the opportunity to set it to music on to Puccini.






7½ ips reel-to-reel tape box
back cover
photo of tape box back cover by Styrous®





As with any work of music, there is at least one piece that is my absolute favorite. The finale of Act 1 is what does it for me. The villian, chief of police, Baron Scarpia, sings of his lust for the heroine, Tosca. He privately gloats as he reveals his intentions to possess Tosca and execute her lover, Cavaradossi. A procession enters the church singing the Te Deum while a bell tolls and a cannon fires. Scarpia joins the chorus in the prayer and executes an incredible duet with the religious congregation that builds to a goosebump inducing, dramatic climax with Scarpia exclaiming 'Tosca, you make me forget even God!." It is a stunning mix of erotica and religion!  Tosca - Act 1, Finale on YouTube.   




7½ ips reel-to-reel tape box with libretto
photo by Styrous®



Renata Tebaldi - Tosca
2 7½ ips reel-to-reel tapes in box 
photo by Styrous®




Musically, Tosca is structured as a through-composed work, with arias, recitative, choruses and other elements musically woven into a seamless whole. Puccini used Wagnerian leitmotifs (short musical statements) to identify characters, objects and ideas. While critics have frequently dismissed the opera as a facile melodrama with confusions of plot, musicologist Joseph Kerman famously called it a "shabby little shocker", the power of its score and the inventiveness of its orchestration have been widely acknowledged.        





Renata Tebaldi - Tosca
7½ ips reel-to-reel tape
reel 1 
photo by Styrous®



Renata Tebaldi - Tosca
7½ ips reel-to-reel tape
reel 2 
photo by Styrous®




Tebaldi was born Renata Ersilia Clotilde Tebaldi in Pesaro on February 1, 1922. She was the daughter of a cellist, Teobaldo Tebaldi, and Giuseppina Barbieri, a nurse. Her parents separated before her birth and Tebaldi grew up with her mother in the home of her maternal grandparents in Langhirano. She was stricken with polio at the age of three. When she was thirteen her mother sent her for piano lessons with Giuseppina Passani in Parma, who took the initiative that Tebaldi study voice with Italo Brancucci, a singing teacher at the conservatory of Parma. She was admitted to the conservatory at the age of 17, taking lessons with Brancucci and Ettore Campogalliani, and later transferred to Liceo musicale Rossini in Pesaro taking lessons with Carmen Melis, and on her suggestion with Giuseppe Pais.

Tebaldi made her stage debut as Elena in Boito's Mefistofele in Rovigo in 1944. Her breakthrough came in 1946, when she auditioned for Arturo Toscanini. who called her "voce d'angelo" (angel voice). She made her American debut in 1950 as Aïda at the San Francisco Opera; her Metropolitan Opera debut took place on January 31, 1955, as Desdemona opposite Mario del Monaco in Otello. She made her last appearance at the Met once again as Desdemona in Otello on January 8, 1973. By the end of her career, Tebaldi had sung in 1,262 performances, 1,048 complete operas, and 214 concerts. She retired from the stage in 1973 and from the concert hall in 1976.       

Of course, there was the legendary rivalry, real or staged for publicity, between her and diva extraordinaire, Maria Callas

Renata Tebaldi died on December 19, 2004, at her home, in San Marino. She is buried in the family chapel at Mattaleto cemetery (Langhirano); she was 82.   





































Tosca - Act 1, Finale on YouTube   



The opening reviews for Tosca were mixed. One critic described act 2 as overly long and wordy; another, that the rush of action did not permit enough lyricism (really?), to the great detriment of the music. A third called the opera "three hours of noise".    

Ah, but what beautiful noise!


The Renata Tebaldi ~ Tosca, reel-to-reel tape is for sale on eBay     


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