"Recently there have been issued two live sets with Maria Callas Norma - one by Gala and one by Allegro Music labelled Opera d'oro. Both sets cast Callas and Del Monaco, and differ Simionato vs Stignani, Votto vs Serafin. And both dated by one year - 1955.
Both performances are moving. Callas has better singing with Votto but with more tragic acting with Serafin. Del Monaco is too forceful with Votto and has better singing with Serafin. Simionato and Stignani both are excellent and very different as Adalgisa. To me Serafin conducting is more deep and tragic vs Votto conducting that is just dynamic."
Wretched Re-mastering of an Indispensable Performance
William T. Clegg | Pocatello, Idaho United States | 07/29/2003
(1 out of 5 stars)
"This performance, recorded by Radio Italiana on June 29, 1955 is Callas at her finest. Nowhere is there a better representation of the diva in her most famous role. Dramatically and vocally, everything is in place. The rest of the cast is at their best, except Stignani, who gives a good effort but is audibly past her prime. Nonetheless, even she does nothing to detract from this masterful performance. Serafin turns in his best reading of the opera here, guiding the singers, orchestra, and chorus with a sure and knowing hand.So why only one star? This issue by Opera d'Oro has terrible problems with pitch fluctuation, due most likely to a worn, stretched tape source. In order to disguise this, they've mastered everything almost a step and a half above what's written in the score so the slowest parts actually sound in the correct pitch. They should have made sure their origianl source was in better condition. Unfortunately, no one involved in the preparation of this release seems to have noticed and therefore have allowed an inferior product to be issued. In an age where historic issues of past performances are treated, for the most part, with the reverence and respect they deserve, this offering is unacceptable and not worth any price. If you want this particular performance of Norma, it is available from other labels in much better sound and is well worth the search."
A crowning set!
tutzi | 09/01/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Three legends in their primes: Callas, Stignani, del Monaco AND the great Serafin conducting! A MUST HAVE!"
Live Callas - always a novelty
vedvedsica | Auckland, NZ | 03/11/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"One's main priority when buying a Norma must be the prima donna. Sure, Pollione and Adalgisa are important characters, but neither can sustain the drama like a great singer in the title role can. Here we have arguably the most famous such diva to play Norma - the immortal and beloved Maria Callas. Although the high notes are occasionally hard and/or shrill, they are less so than in either of Callas's commercial recordings. Also, live with all restraints unleashed, she gives a dramatic performance that is simply stunning. Her "Casta Diva" and cabaletta manage to express feigned anger and determination, yearning, vulnerability and woe, and her efforts in the ensembles are scorchingly intense. But it is in the recitative that she really shines, as usual.One must always think carefully about buying a CD with Mario del Monaco in. His blustery, unsubtle, loud performances can be immensely irritating. This is an exception however. He usually sings below his normal 150 decibels and even occasionally introduces some expression. The Adalgisa, Ebe Stignani, had really got past her prime at the time of this performance. Though still wonderful, she occasionally sounds tired, and in contrast with Callas, she sounds like Norma's mother.Serafin's conducting is his usual amazing effort, but the sound can occasionally be a problem. Being a live performance, this must be suspected. But, unfortunately, the microphones seem to pick on poor Stignani's waning top, making it sound frankly awkward. Altogether, though not perfect, still well worth it for this price."