Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Bellini, Sutherland, Lscr|
It helps to have seen the production on which this recording
Doug McCallum | 10/09/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Though I was just a kid at the time, I saw the production of "Norma" on which this recording was based. It was Joan Sutherland's debut in the role and took place in Vancouver, Canada, in November 1963, a few years after her early triumphs in "Lucia di Lammermoor" had made her an operatic superstar. Several months after the Vancouver Opera production Decca/London's classical division made this recording with all of the same principals but with a different orchestra and chorus.
To someone of my formative years the stage production was an unforgettable experience. My previous introductions to opera had consisted of some old records, some excerpts on TV, and a single live performance of "Rigoletto" by the Vancouver Opera the year before. I'd previously disliked so-called coloratura singers, such as Lily Pons, for their tinny, colourless voices and didn't know what to expect from this "Norma." I was bowled over by a tremendous production.
Sutherland appeared, tall and majestic, in a blood red robe and immediately commanded attention in the forceful declamation that precedes "Casta Diva." She sang the aria and cabaletta with a combination of lyrical beauty, power and agility that was astounding and drew the first of many ovations. Another surprise was the performance of the great American mezzo Marilyn Horne, who had previously been known only in Europe. In the duets her magnificent voice blended perfectly with Sutherland's, as it did on many subsequent occasions. After each duet the applause was thunderous and went on for more than five minutes.
This production made me an opera fan for life. Today, as a theatre historian, I am much more aware of its importance in the annals of opera. The recording that resulted from it is a valuable document and, for me, a souvenir of a memorable experience. I'm sorry that some reviewers are unable to appreciate the virtues of this recording and can only recognize its faults. But the truth is that no recording of this masterpiece has been without imperfections.
Moreover, there is more than one way to interpret it. Though Sutherland admired Callas, she was also aware of the latter's vocal weaknesses and chose to pursue an entirely different course. Callas sacrificed vocal beauty for the sake of colour. Sutherland based everything on the melodic line; her approach was sculptural, Callas's was painterly. Sutherland approached "Norma" as lyric theatre, Callas saw it as music drama.
Ultimately, in choosing a recording, it comes down to which of those you value more. Various "golden age" singers followed different approaches. Simply bashing one singer or the other is foolish and a waste of everybody's time. Just listen to both the Callas and Sutherland versions and choose the one you prefer. And stop paying attention to the ignorant, self-appointed "experts" who have no tolerance for other people's tastes. If you enjoy truly beautiful singing you will not be disappointed in Sutherland's 1964 recording."
Callas fans should just shut up
Jonathan D. Wallach | New York, NY United States | 01/02/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you don't like Sutherland then stop listening to her recordings and reviewing them. Callas fans hate Sutherland's Norma so much because it was facutal evidence that Sutherland could do things that Callas couldn't even attempt to do. I admire both but fans of Maria Callas give her a bad name. Callas invests so much emotion into the text that it is a thrill to listen to although her high notes are among the ugliest sounds ever recorded by a human. Without her acting ability nobody would have paid any attention to her at all. On the other hand Sutherland's voice is beautiful, big and agile from top to bottom. She could sing the phone book and people would listen. Paying more attention to her acting would have taken away from what she did have to offer (although she was not a terrible actress, just not very imaginative). As far as THIS recording is concerned Sutherland gives us the most perfectly sung Norma in history and Horne the greatest Adalgisa. Together, they are otherworldly. The male roles are done well if not spectacularly. But this opera is all about Norma and Adalgisa, and bel canto is about great singing. You can't go wrong with this recording."
Enjoy this for what it is . . .
S. Wells | California | 12/23/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This recording should be enjoyed for what it is and not criticised for what it isn't. Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland were both great, though very different, artists. If you want to hear Callas - or won't be satisfied with anyone but Callas - don't listen to this recording. Don't get me wrong. I do believe that Callas was the greatest Norma of her time. But my tastes are sufficiently catholic to allow me to enjoy other performers in roles for which Callas was justly famous. "Norma" is, perhaps, my favourite opera and my shelf contains 14 CD recordings of the work. Seven of these recordings feature Callas at various stages of her career. Caballe, Cina, Scotto, Deutekom, Eaglen and Sutherland (twice) are also represented, not that I return to each of these recordings with equal pleasure. To listen to anyone other than Callas and expect to hear Callas is silly. This also prevents the listener from enjoying the many pleasures this set has to offer.
Foremost are the contributions of the two leading ladies. Here are the voices of Joan Sutherland and Marilyn Horne captured at their finest and freshest. Each voice is exquisite on its own and they blend in a harmony that is truly incomparable. The two Norma/Adalgisa duets on this set contain some of the most beautiful singing I've ever heard.
I also find there is much to enjoy in John Alexander's Pollione. His is a clear voice with ringing high notes, and he sings with taste and intelligence. His second act duet with Sutherland is exciting for both their contributions, including Sutherland's ringing e-flat in alt at the end. For my taste, this is the best Pollione on record.
Richard Cross is adequate as Oroveso, but it's not a part that really demands a lot of the singer. Richard Bonynge's conducting is . . .well . . . it's Richard Bonynge's conducting, meaning it's the price to pay to hear Joan Sutherland.
On the whole, I think this is one of the more generally satisfying recordings of "Norma." I return to this set frequently, and always with enjoyment. The other recording of this work that I often play also features Joan Sutherland - as Clotilde to Callas's Norma when Callas made her debut at Covent Garden, issued on EMI Classics as part of their series of live Callas performances."