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Classical 101

Great Performances at The Metropolitan Opera: Tosca, April 7, 1962

Sony Classical continues to release classic Metropolitan Opera broadcasts. Today, it's Giacomo Puccini's 'Tosca' - the opera most loved by real prima donnas, by full throated tenors and by menacing baritones. This opera wasn't called "A shabby little shocker" for nothing. For me, it's thrilling music for luscious Italianate voices, great drama and just enough schmaltz to make it fun. Murder, execution and attempted rape and you're home by 10 PM. What's not to love? Tosca received twenty performances at the Metropolitan Opera during the 1961-62 season. Leontyne Price sang the role twice in New York and five more times on tour. Then never again. Tosca had been the vehicle for her international debut, when she sang it in English on NBC TV in 1955. Her home state of Mississippi refused to carry the telecast. "A black Tosca!" Miss Price said, years later. "Can you imagine such a thing?" Like most Met broadcasts going back nearly seventy years, this Tosca has long been available to collectors, most recently via on line trading groups. Sony, despite the skimpy packaging, has done a good job clarifying the fifty year old AM radio sound. Joining Leontyne Price in the cast of the April 7, 1962 broadcast were Franco Corell - the most thrilling Italian tenor of his day singing Cavaradossi, and the stunning American baritone Cornell MacNeil as Scarpia. It's easy to be smug about Sony releasing recordings that one could find for years, but the fact remains that Sony's distribution insures that everyone has access to these great performances. So bravo to Sony, and as for Price, Corelli and MacNeil....they don't make 'em like that anymore. Listen, thrill and enjoy! Millions of people did, on the radio, fifty years ago.

Christopher Purdy is Classical 101's early morning host, 7-10 a.m. weekdays. He is host and producer of Front Row Center – Classical 101’s weekly celebration of Opera and more – as well as Music in Mid-Ohio, Concerts at Ohio State, and the Columbus Symphony broadcast series. He is the regular pre-concert speaker for Columbus Symphony performances in the Ohio Theater.