In collaboration with Giovanni Antonini, Riccardo Minasi and Maurizio Biondi, Cecilia Bartoli restores the sound and spirit of Norma in a landmark Decca recording based on the opera’s original sources. Cecilia Bartoli leads a fabulous cast in Decca’s groundbreaking new recording, which presents Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma in a form that is complete with the exquisite mix of vocal and instrumental colours that Bellini intended for his ‘tragic opera’.
“If we weep from emotion on hearing it, it’s nothing to be ashamed of” Richard Wagner on Bellini’s most famous opera Norma, the most successful work by the last and greatest composer of bel canto. This new production of Norma, directed by Grammy Award-nominated opera, theatre and film director Kevin Newbury and starring Sondra Radvanovsky as a “powerful, elegant” Norma (New York Times) and Gregory Kunde as Pollione, is “something very special. The word ‘historic’ is used perhaps a little too often but tonight there really is no other adjective to describe the sensational performances offered to us by Sondra Radvanovsky and Gregory unde.” (operatraveller.com)
This 1979 Norma features Renata Scotto in one of her very best recordings. She is in gorgeous vocal estate, with much exquisite pianissimo singing above the stave. Surprisingly, Scotto is one of the few native Italians to essay this most difficult bel canto role, and she brings an innate understanding of the text and music .
Bellini’s Norma contains one of the most impressive and also most difficult soprano roles in the whole repertoire of opera. Few sopranos can do justice to it. The first of those who have must surely be Maria Callas, considered the outstanding interpreter of the title part. The role, along with Bellini"s opera, was interpreted in a revolutionary fashion by Joan Sutherland (born in Sydney 1926). She is the protagonist in the present recording made at the Sydney Opera House in August 1978. "La Stupenda", as Joan Sutherland was known in musical circles, ended her international career in 1990. The celebrated production by Sandro Sequi, with Fiorella Mariani"s lavish décor and costumes, concentrates entirely on the human destiny of a woman on the edge of her existence. He intelligently brings forth the priestess’ emotional world, hence showing the many facets of Norma"s character. The whole drama of events on the stage is reflected in the orchestra pit, and musical director Richard Bonynge demonstrates once again his competence for great musical theatre.
This Norma is a total disaster on every front. All the singers sound terrible and the staging is an impressive fiasco. Theodossiou and Ventre were in much better voice in the previous Norma Dynamic DVD, but the staging there was even worse. I can't believe that both Theodossiou's and Ventre's voices deteriorated so bad in just 2 years - I think the problem with this production is the huge flat outdoor space with dead acoustic. I think that explains why everyone, including the chorus sounds bad and strained…By Noam Eitan