A Manic for Toscaby Wah Keung Chan
/ March 1, 2002
Noel Spinelli with favourite Toscas. Photo: Russell Proulx
"It all started as
a joke," said Noel Spinelli of his collection of 124 different recordings of
Puccini's Tosca. "Robert Savoie told me he had sung
the role of Scarpia and the Sacristan. I said I was going to learn all the roles
and just for my curiosity, I wanted to see how many recordings I could find.
Every time I went to the Metropolitan Opera or La Scala, I would find some more
in their souvenir shop. When I got to 50, I thought that I would stop because I
found them all." Spinelli's collection now includes Toscas sung in Italian,
German, French, Russian and English, with most commercial recordings and about
35 live recordings, and 10 to 15 are videos on VHS or DVD. His method of
cataloguing is by the name of the soprano who sings Tosca. The list begins with
one recording with Licia Albanese, 7 recordings of Callas with 5 different
tenors and 11 of Tebaldi with many different tenors. "I like a lot of the live
performances with all of their qualities and their faults."
are his favourites?
"I would choose the 1953 EMI
Recording with Callas, Di Stefano and Gobbi. This recording is generally
acclaimed by the critics as the benchmark and I have to agree. Although Callas
is not my favourite voice, she is my favourite Tosca. The colour of Callas's
voice; that is what I imagine Tosca looking and sounding like. Usually I prefer
Tebaldi, but I don't get as excited about her Tosca. Di Stefano is a wonderful
Cavaradossi and Tito Gobbi is a fantastic Scarpia. De Sabata is the best
conductor. He has an amazing understanding of the score. That's what it should
sound like. It's a feeling."
Others of interest
- "The oldest one I have is the 1929 VAI recording
with Carmen Melis as Tosca, Piero Pauli as Cavaradossi and Granforte as
Scarpia, and the La Scala orchestra. Because of the age, it is interesting."
- "The 1938 recording at Rome Opera House, RCA Victor,
Caniglia as Tosca."
- "I recently received the recording of Corelli
singing in Tosca in Parma live on January 21, 1967. This is a crazy, crazy
recording. Corelli singing beyond reason to a crowd that is totally insane, I
don't think there is a living conductor that would allow this kind of singing.
Corelli almost sings ad lib."
"The DVD of the 1985 Met telecast of the Zefferelli
production with Domingo, Behrens and Cornell MacNeil, and Giuseppe Sinopoli
conducting. It's a must. The singing is first rate. It's also available on VHS."
Noel Spinelli is Chairman of the Board of Groupe Spinelli
and a patron of the arts.