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Thread: Va...Tosca?

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    Junior Member wagner4evr's Avatar
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    Default Va...Tosca?

    Hello all. Just a shot in the dark, but I wondered if any Tosca fans here could give me some insight on one aspect of the Te Deum. My Mom learned Tosca from the Gobbi/Callas/Di Stefano version. In that version, Gobbi sings the Va Tosca line as Va...TOSCA, as presented below at 2:21 and 3:19.



    I on the other hand learned Tosca from the Milnes/Domingo version, which as the more traditional Va...tosca:



    So I guess my questions are:

    1. Which is correct / Did Puccini intend?
    2. Which do you prefer and why?

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    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    I don't have the score to hand, but it seems to me that Gobbi introduces an appogiatura, correct practice in Mozart, but not generally used in Puccini. That said, appogoaturas must still have been in practice when Verdi was writing Otello, as there is at least one injunction in the score for the music to be sung senza appogiature (the Si pel ciel duet for Otello and Iago, if memory serves me correctly).

    I prefer Gobbi's version (though that could well be because it is the one I grew up on) because it puts a particular emphasis on the name of Tosca. Callas does it too when she sings the words "E avanti a lui tremava tutta Roma" on the De Sabata recording. Though usually spoken these days, and indeed by Callas herself in later performances, Puccini sets them to a low C#. Callas adds an appogiatura on the first syllable of tutta, which gives emphasis to the word in the sentence, much as it would if spoken.

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    Senior Member Dongiovanni's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GregMitchell View Post
    I don't have the score to hand, but it seems to me that Gobbi introduces an appogiatura
    Indeed. Here's the part in the vocal score, the first 'Va Tosca'

    Va Tosca.png

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    Senior Member Pip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dongiovanni View Post
    Indeed. Here's the part in the vocal score, the first 'Va Tosca'

    Va Tosca.png
    I would say that Gobbi is right. He observes the one beat rest between the Va and Tosca. Milnes does not, he just runs Va Tosca as an unbroken phrase. Milnes is wrong, he sings "Va" as two beats when it is only one. There is no appoggiatura, just a one beat rest.

    I always preferred Gobbi anyway. One of the best singing actors ever!
    Last edited by Pip; Nov-24-2013 at 15:35.

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    Junior Member wagner4evr's Avatar
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    Thanks guys. That's interesting about the one beat on Va--never even noticed that before and much prefer it as sung by Gobbi (the definitive version imo). However, Gobbi's added appogiatura on "Tosca" is the only example I can find of all the versions I've ever heard or attended. It's certainly grown on me, but I guess I still prefer it without the added emphasis. Scarpia's monologue leading up to the Te Deum, for me, has always been about showcasing his scheming devilishness through reverent subtlety (as an aside to the choir), something that seems to me incompatible with the ornamented TOSCA. Or, maybe it's just because I love how Milnes walks past the procession towards the altar, head down with a half grin LOL.

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    Please forgive in advance that I don't belong on this learned forum of musicologists. I'm a musical moron who nonetheless loves opera. I've followed this forum but have never asked to join until now. Like the original poster, I've wondered for years about the two different versions. Thanks to all of you for the insights about the rest and especially for the vocal score. But I'm still wondering what would account for Gobbi singing those three notes ("Va...Tosca") as B rest BF, instead of B rest FF as written. The emphasis, as GregMitchell noted, is on "TOSca." Gobbi sang it "right" in his first (definitive) recording with Callas but "wrong" thereafter. Since I learned Tosca from his second recording, I still like it this way. Any chance Puccini got it wrong and Gobbi made it better?

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    Quote Originally Posted by TinEar View Post
    Any chance Puccini got it wrong and Gobbi made it better?
    No definitive answer, it depends on one's opinion Probably 80% or more of Violettas "create" a high Eb at the end of Sempre Libera that Verdi never wrote. Did they improve Verdi? I don't know, but I know that I like my Eb6 and get grumpy when it's omitted
    -Ian

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    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rgz View Post
    No definitive answer, it depends on one's opinion Probably 80% or more of Violettas "create" a high Eb at the end of Sempre Libera that Verdi never wrote. Did they improve Verdi? I don't know, but I know that I like my Eb6 and get grumpy when it's omitted
    Well in the case of Sempre libera, I doubt Verdi would have minded very much. The note, as long as the soprano has it in her voice, nicely caps the aria and adds to her mounting rapture. Even those who don't have the note usually alter Verdi's written ending which takes her down to the Ab in the middle of the stave, and finish on the one an octave above instead. Verdi's actual ending is rather anti-climactic. Scotto sings that original ending on her recording with Muti, who was at the time going through a sort of musical straight-jacketing, when he never diverted from the printed score. It rather spoils what had till then been a feverishly exciting reading of the scene. I doubt Scotto ever sang it that way again. On her earlier recording with Votto she sings the Eb.

    There is also that (in)famous occasion when Callas capped the Triumphal Scene in Aida with an Eb in alt of monumental proportions, holding it almost throughout the orchestral postlude. The majority of Aidas would not have such a note in their armoury, and I have to admit it is somewhat vulgar, though it caps the scene splendidly. I have to admit I hear it in my mind's ear now every time I hear this scene.
    Last edited by Tsaraslondon; Nov-26-2013 at 12:01.

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    Many thanks to both of you! So true that the mind's ear is a tyrant that wants what it wants. I've been grumpy for 50 years waiting to hear a performance of that passage as Puccini apparently never wrote it! But thanks for clearing up a lifelong mystery.

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    Senior Member Pip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GregMitchell View Post
    Well in the case of Sempre libera, I doubt Verdi would have minded very much. The note, as long as the soprano has it in her voice, nicely caps the aria and adds to her mounting rapture. Even those who don't have the note usually alter Verdi's written ending which takes her down to the Ab in the middle of the stave, and finish on the one an octave above instead. Verdi's actual ending is rather anti-climactic. Scotto sings that original ending on her recording with Muti, who was at the time going through a sort of musical straight-jacketing, when he never diverted from the printed score. It rather spoils what had till then been a feverishly exciting reading of the scene. I doubt Scotto ever sang it that way again. On her earlier recording with Votto she sings the Eb.

    There is also that (in)famous occasion when Callas capped the Triumphal Scene in Aida with an Eb in alt of monumental proportions, holding it almost throughout the orchestral postlude. The majority of Aidas would not have such a note in their armoury, and I have to admit it is somewhat vulgar, though it caps the scene splendidly. I have to admit I hear it in my mind's ear now every time I hear this scene.
    Indeed, that was the Mexico City performance. It still gives me a frisson to hear it. By the time she came to Covent Garden a year or so later to sing Aida under Barbirolli she had dispensed with this ending.
    That might have been to much for the Coronation Season.

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    Junior Member wagner4evr's Avatar
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    All very interesting, indeed. Now it makes we wonder further whether minor performance variations in the score are more or less common today than 1-200 years ago. Thanks everyone.

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    Senior Member Revenant's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wagner4evr View Post
    All very interesting, indeed. Now it makes we wonder further whether minor performance variations in the score are more or less common today than 1-200 years ago. Thanks everyone.
    The 'As Written' principle is observed much more closely (some would say too closely) today than 50-100 years ago. Not only on the variations of phrasing but even in the versions of the operas. Many were truncated, transposed, what have you, much more frequently than today. And the Baroque and even the bel canto techniques were not upheld or well-defended in that era. For a time, even such fundamental vocal techniques as rubato and even legato were underused, unused or misused.
    "No preluding! Piano pianissimo -- then all will be well." (Posted in the orchestra pit on August 13, 1876)

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