When a Tito Gobbi, a prodigious actor and colossal singer, meets a Maria Callas…
Capable of portraying the debonair Falstaff in the opera of the same name by Verdi as well as the cruel Scarpia (Tosca by Puccini), Tito Gobbi is fortunately unable to disguise a voice that made him the most famous baritone of the sixties. We are able to judge for ourselves with this portrait the BBC made of him in 1958.
Accompanied by the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by the excellent Charles Mackerras, in scenery specially created in the studios, Tito Gobbi interprets a gallery of characters ranging from the dark Iago to the wily peasant in Gianni Schicchi, with references to his Venetian origin (he was born in 1913 in Bassano) hummed at the make-up table and, of course, Falstaff.
Between studying law at the University of Padua and a retirement dedicated to painting, Tito Gobbi included in his repertoire close to a hundred roles, during a career dotted with Homeric disputes concerning his demands with opera managers all around the world. But respected by all, his musicianship and his vocal abilities do nothing to hinder his fantastic gift as an actor.
Proof of this is given once again in this documentary on him made by British television. Even before he opens his mouth, alone in front of the mirror, Gobbi transforms himself to portray the sinister character of Scarpia, his favourite role. All that remains for him to do is to go on stage, sniggering already at the plot hatched against Cavaradossi, which he believes will put the beautiful Tosca entirely at his mercy.
He interprets the character of Scarpia five years after his debut, then portrays him everywhere until the Met in 1956 where he receives triumphant acclaim. Two years later, during the gala event on December 19th, 1958 at the Palais Garnier which marks the debut of Maria Callas in France, he performs with "the divine" the second act of the Tosca on the stage of the Palais Garnier. Gobbi is then at the height of his art, and so is Callas, who has been singing the role of Tosca since the age of nineteen. Accompanied by the Orchestra and the Chorus of the Paris Opera conducted by Georges Sébastian, these two divas, incomparable singers and actors, following this legendary performance become a duo impossible to miss.
A film by Diane Perelsztejn. Narrated by Charlotte Rampling
Orchestre de l'ORTF, Georges Prêtre - Orchestre de l'Opéra de Paris, Georges Sébastian