Fiorenza Cedolins (Tosca); Marcelo Alvarez (Cavaradossi); Ruggero Raimondi (Scarpia); Marco Spotti (Angelotti); Enrico Facini (Spoletta); Chorus and Orchestra of Verona Arena/Daniel Oren, cond.

BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 "Choral." Leonore Overture No. 3
Angela Denoke, soprano; Burkhard Fritz, tenor; Waltraud Meier, mezzo-soprano; René Pape, bass; Berlin State Opera Chorus; West-East Divan Orch/Daniel Barenboim, cond.
MEDICI ARTS DVD VIDEO 2055528 TT: 96 min.

FAZIL SAY "ALLA TURCA" - A film by Gösta Courkamp
ARTHAUS MUSIK DVD VIDEO 101 443 TT: 73 min. incl. "bonus"

Puccini's Tosca has not lacked representation on DVD. Historic performances feature Franco Corelli, Magda Olivero and Renata Tebaldi (see DVD Index), and more recent versions feature Catherine Malfitano (REVIEW), Maria Guleghina (REVIEW), and Nadja Michael from the Bregenz Festival (REVIEW). Now we have a performance from the Arena di Verona, a huge outdoor stage that is a challenge for directors, producers and performers. Similar problems were dealt with very successfully in the Bregenz Festival performance. There is plenty of spectacle in both that and the new Verona issue.The Act I ending with its large chorus is particularly impressive and here we have actual canon on stage! Fiorenza Cedolins is a vivacious diva who tends to overdo theatrics, but then for many this is what Tosca is about. After a rather shaky start she is an exciting Tosca. Unfortunately, her Act II gown has a long train thanks to costume designer Hugo de Ana. It is a beautiful display of fabric, but she has some problems dealing with it. Marcelo Alvarez is superb as Cavaradossi—he has become one of the leading tenors of our time. His cries of "Vittoria!" are exciting indeed. Director Ana arbitrarily decided Cavaradossi should be chained to a crucifix before being shot. Ruggiero Raimondi has been singing Scarpia for some years and still has the voice to do justice to the role This is a fine Tosca, with video that justifies the Blu-Ray technology, and audio that will test your sound equipment—those canon really have impact!

The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra was founded by Daniel Barenboim in 1999, an attempt to unify Israel and Arab countries by gathering young players from these countries to meet every summer for rehearsals and concerts. This is their third appearance on DVD, a concert recorded in Berlin's Philharmonie August 27, 2006. This is a big-scale exciting performance of the symphony, with the luxury of a quartet of soloists that includes Waltraud Meier and René Pape. The chorus sometimes is a bit ragged, but the orchestra is superb—all of those important solos are played to perfection. Excellent video and audio, although there isn't much of a "surround" effect.

This site recently mentioned a recent two-disk recording by Turkish pianist Fazil Say, a CD of live performances plus a brief DVD of Black Earth and Paganini Variations (see REVIEW). This DVD is often fascinating, but frustrating as well. Five pages of program notes by Gösta Courkamp, who produced the documentary film, are not particularly informative (but they are presented in three languages), and there is no clear listing of program content. Fazil Say is well known as a composer as well as a remarkable pianist. Included are Black Earth, Paganini Variations, Summertime and Turkish March, all recorded during a concert. A substantial, and quite moving, major work of his is Nazim, an excerpt of which is included in the documentary (featuring Turkish pop singer Sertab Erener). The documentary is a rather rambling affair with brief excerpts of music by Bach and Beethoven along with interviews and scenes that seem to have little to do with the subject. The camera is not kind to Say. We see him very close up. He emotes excessively and gyrates as well, which I find distracting. But his performances are superb and to watch (hear) him play Black Earth is quite an experience—he reaches inside the piano to create sounds of the saz.


R.E.B. (January 2009)