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Best opera ever? Sondra Radvanovsky chooses Puccini's Tosca

Editorial Staff

Best Operas Ever is a new podcast from Saturday Afternoon at the Opera on CBC Radio 2. In each instalment, host Ben Heppner talks to one of the major opera figures of our time about a particular opera recording that they especially love. You'll find each episode here on, and you can tune in to CBC Radio 2 at 1 p.m. any Saturday from now until the end of November to hear these classic recordings in their entirety — along with extended conversations with our esteemed guests.

Best Operas Ever No. 3 - Sondra Radvanovsky

Ben Heppner talks to the great soprano about Maria Callas's classic Tosca recording. 


When soprano Sondra Radvanovsky sang all three of the Donizetti queens in a single season at the Met — meaning the lead roles in Anna BolenaMaria Stuarda, and Roberto Devereux — it quickly became a cliché to refer to her as "opera royalty." But it's a hard cliché to resist. Radvanovsky is one of her generation's greatest interpreters of Italian opera, from Donizetti to Puccini.

On this week's episode of Best Operas Ever, Radvanovsky reveals how the previous generation's greatest interpreter of that repertoire inspired her. Her pick when asked to choose the greatest opera recording ever made was Victor de Sabata's 1953 recording of Puccini's Tosca, featuring Maria Callas in the title role. Somebody was inevitably going to choose it. It is staggeringly well-regarded by critics and operaphiles. But for Radvanovsky, it was a turning point in her life.

"I was in a store in Los Angeles called Tower Records, which is now out of business," she told Ben Heppner. "And I saw this recording of Tosca, and I thought, 'wow, that's an opera that I've never heard before.' Changed my life. It really did. I was probably about 16 years old at that time. I kept saying to myself, 'Someday! Someday, I'm going to sing that opera.'" 

And sing it she did:

Throughout her conversation with Ben, Radvanovsky revealed the best way to leap off the set in the final act, what bits of Callas's performance she nicked for her own interpretations, and who the smarmiest baritone alive is.

Hit the play button above to hear the full interview, and tune in to Saturday Afternoon at the Opera on Sept. 24 to hear more from this conversation, plus Callas's iconic 1953 recording of Tosca in its entirety.

Subscribe to Best Operas Ever on iTunes!

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