As if in response to the announced death of Joseph Kerman the notable classical music critic and scholar who in his brilliant and seminal 1956 book on opera (revised, 1988) Opera as Drama (in)famously and deathlessly dubbed Puccini's Tosca "a shabby little shocker", PBS re-aired the Met's Live in HD film of the opera this past Sunday night. It's been years since we last heard or saw this Italian soap opera and found ourself seized by a perverse desire to watch the telecast. Notwithstanding the first-rate vocal excellence of the three principal singers (Patricia Racette as Floria Tosca, Roberto Alagna as Cavaradossi, and George Gagnidze as Scarpia), and despite the bland staging by Luc Bondy with its K-Mart furniture fittings, we confess we found the opera no more "a shabby little shocker" than a number of other Italian soap operas even as we deplored its totally unnecessary, filler-padded third act which padding was necessary to justify its setting off as an entire act rather than as the terminal scene of Act II and the entire opera which is what it should have been. Though Kerman was thoroughly contemptuous of Puccini as a composer of dramma per musica (a contempt we confess we share) we cannot help but feel he was being somewhat arbitrary in his designation of Tosca as a singular example of "a shabby little shocker" in the domain of Italian opera, for truth be told, it's no worse than other and better than most of its Italian opera brethren in that respect. We realize that's not much of an exoneration but, in all fairness, it's something we think ought to be noted.