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CR-024. Puccini. Tosca. Svetlanov, Milashkina...

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Giaccomo Puccini, one of the greatest Italian composers, was once called by Giuseppe Verdi “a keeper of the seal of Italian melody”.
He was born in Lucca on December 22, 1858 to a family of musicians. He studied music at the Milano Conservatoire. During his three years there his teachers were Bazzini and Ponchielli. Puccini’s first operas were Le villi and Edgar, staged in Teatro del Verme and in La Scala. The first opera that made him really famous was Manon Lescaut (1893). After that, he wrote La Boheme, Tosca, Madam Butterfly, La fanciulla del West. In 1917, a comic opera La rondine did not have success. His next work appeared in 1918: a triptych of one-act operas Il tabarro, Suor Angelica, Gianni Schicchi. His greatest masterpiece and swansong, Turandot, was written in 1921-1924. Puccini did not finish his last work. He died in Brussels on 29 November, 1924.
Tosca is one of the most dramatic among all Puccini’s works. The plot is based on the drama by Victorien Sardou. Puccini saw it in 1889 in Milano with Sara Bernard as Tosca. Libretto was written by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa. Puccini worked on his new opera in 1896-1899. The premiere took place on January 14, 1900 in Rome and was a great success. In two months time, Tosca was performed in La Scala in Milano. Nowadays, it is one of the most popular operas, included in the repertoire of the most famous opera houses of the world.

After the fall of Roman Republic the former consul of Rome Cesare Angelotti, who was imprisoned in the castle of Sant’Angelo, managed to escape. He comes to the church of Sant’Andrea della Valle, taking refuge in the chapel of his sister, Marchioness Attavanti. He meets his friend, Mario Cavaradossi, an artist, who is working on a painting of Saint Magdalene in the church. Marchioness Attavanti doesn’t know that Cavaradossi has been using her as a model. Cavaradossi is ready to help his friend; but just when the artist offers him his breakfast their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of Cavaradossi’s mistress, a famous singer Floria Tosca. Mario’s unusual behavior and uneasiness arouses her jealousy. Mario reassures her. When Tosca leaves the church, Cavaradossi suggests to Angelotti that he could hide the former prisoner on his villa.
A cannon shot announces that Angelotti’s escape is discovered. Cavaradossi accompanies his friend to his house.
In search for Angelotti, baron Scarpia, the chief of the secret police, comes to the church. The absence of the artist, the open gate of the Attavanti chapel, the empty food basket that was found in the chapel - all these signs persuade Scarpia of Cavara-dossi’s complicity. Scarpia discovers the amazing li-keliness between Angelotti’s sister and St. Magdalene, while his men find marchioness’s fan. Scarpia, who is secretly in love with Tosca, immediately realizes that he can get his rival out of the way - he is going to arrest Cavaradossi as Angelotti’s accomplice. When Tosca returns, Scarpia shows her the fan and arouses her jealousy and suspicions again. Tosca leaves in tears, furious at the thought that Cavaradossi has betrayed her; she is followed by two of Scarpia's agents.
Seated in his room in Farneze palace, Scarpia is waiting for his agents and for Tosca. In Cavaradossi’s villa, his men could not find Angelotti. But the artist was arrested and brought to Scarpia. Cavaradossi refuses to reveal Angelotti’s hiding place, and Scarpia sends him to the torture room. When Tosca comes, she is forced to hear her lover’s cries of ag-ony; tormented by his groans, she finally confesses that Angelotti is hidden in the secret cave in the well in Cavaradossi's garden. Sciarone brings the news of Napoleon’s victory at Marengo. Cavaradossi, who has regained consciousness after tortures, is jubilant. Scarpia sends him to prison - the artist should be prosecuted by the next morning. When Cavaradossi is taken away, Scarpia tells Tosca that he can set him free for the price of Tosca’s love. Finally Toska agrees. But Scarpia can’t repeal Cavaradossi’s death sentence now, so he gives orders for the mock execution: the guns would be loaded with blank cartridges. While Scarpia writes a letter that would allow Tosca and Cavaradossi leave Rome, she notices a knife on the table and conceals it behind her back. And when Scarpia approaches her in triumph, she stabs him.
Early in the morning, Cavaradossi is waiting for execution in the Castle of Sant’Angelo. The bells are ringing, and a shepherds’ song can be heard in a distance. An hour before his death, Cavaradossi writes a farewell letter to Tosca. Suddenly she herself appears with a safe-conduct and tells him the news. The lovers anticipate their future happiness. But first, there must be the execution... Tosca teaches Cavaradossi how to simulate his death. The soldiers come and prepare for the execution. The guns fire, Mario falls down and lies motionless, just as Tosca has advised him... After the soldiers have left, she calls her lover, then rushes to him and realizes that Scarpia has deceived her: Cavaradossi is dead. Suddenly she hears that Scarpia’s death has been discovered. Soldiers are coming to arrest her. Tosca runs to the parapet and throws herself down from the tower of the castle.

Yevgeny Svetlanov - the “Legendary Maestro”, as the musical critics used to call him - was one of the greatest Russian musicians of the 20th century. His unique talent made him one of the most eminent figures not only of Russian national culture, but in the world culture as well.
A world famous conductor, Svetlanov was also a brilliant pianist and an interesting composer. Critics said about him that he was more than a performer of someone else’s music, sometimes it looked as if he actually partook in the work of the great masters he played… He knew how to energize the audience and, working them up to ecstasy, sent people on their feet.
Svetlanov was born in Moscow on September 6th, 1928. Both his parents worked at the Bolshoi Theater; young Yevgeny grew up right in the Bolshoi; he was present at the rehear-sals and shows, sang in the choire; since the age of five he used to take part in crowd scenes on the stage of the most famous Russian theater.
He began his musical studies when he was six. He studied piano with Maria Gurvich and composition with Mikhail Gnessin at the Gnessin Institute of music; after he graduated from the Gnessin’s in 1951, he continued his education at the Moscow Conser-vatoire where his teachers were Alexander Gauk (conducting), Henrich Neuhaus (piano) and Yuri Shaporin (composition).
“Ever since I could remember myself, I was always aware of the fact that I should become a conductor”, Svetlanov recalled later.
Svetlanov made his conducting debut in Bolshoi Theater in 1955. He was invited to Bolshoi as an assistant conductor; later, in 1962, he became the principal conductor. His repertoire at the theater included 25 operas and ballets (12 of them were directed by Svetlanov). In 1964, he was invited to La Scala where he conducted Boris Godunov by Mussorgsky, Prince Igor by Borodin, and Sadko by Rimsky-Korsakov with a great success.
A great Russian singer Irina Archipova, speaking about Svetlanov’s conducting in three operas by Rimsky-Korsakov, told that his performance “was fantastic. The orchestra sounded really great!”
Another star of the Bolshoi, Elena Obrastzova, referred to him as a true Russian musician, who feels the Russian spirit and incarnates it in his interpretation like nobody else.
In 1965, he became an artistic director and chief conductor for the USSR State Symphony Orchestra. Under his directorship it turned into one of the best orchestras in the world. Yevgeny Svetlanov gave several thousands concerts - in the most prestigious concert halls of the world and in small cities of Russia, sometimes even in the railway depots - everywhere his audiences were enthusiastic. His repertoire was enormous. He recorded all symphonies by Brahms, Mahler, all symphonic works by Beethoven, Liszt, Schubert, Schumann, Dvorak, Grieg, Saint-Saens, Elgar, Bloch. In the sixties he recorded all Tchaikovsky’s symphonies, starting an anthology of Russian classics no one had ever done before… 27 symphonies by Miaskovsky, all symphonies by Rachmaninov, works by Schostakovich, Prokofiev, Khachaturian, Sviridov, Kabalevsky, Eshpay, Shaporin, Karaev... “I want to perform every single piece of music, well known and forgotten, ever written by a Russian classic,” Yevgeny Svetlanov said once.
More than two thousand compositions, about 600 hours of music! Yevgeny Svetlanov devoted all his life to make happen what eventually became a monument to his selfless service to music.
Yevgeny Svetlanov died on May 3rd, 2002.

In 2001, Yevgeny Svetlanov Foundation was organized. Its purpose is to preserve the traditions and spirit of the heritage left by Maestro.

© Classical Records

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