Search - Vincenzo Bellini, Antonino Votto, La Scala Theater Orchestra :: Bellini: Norma

Bellini: Norma
Vincenzo Bellini, Antonino Votto, La Scala Theater Orchestra
Bellini: Norma
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (18) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (17) - Disc #2


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CD Reviews

Legendary Norma ?
Liu Ming | France | 06/21/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is the mythical night at la Scala so praised not only by the public but also by critics and opera singers.
Callas' voice has still the amazing strength and flexibility of the early fifties and at the same time it has become more subtle and elegant. The emission is unusually even and smooth, the timber is both warm and powerful.

The great pluses: the gorgeous, virile voice of Del Monaco, the remarkable Simionato and a surprisingly innovating lecture of the partition by maestro Votto.

Is it really the best Norma ever? Well, personally I have some reserves.

This record features, without any doubt, the BEST cast ever reunited. However, even if Del Monaco and Simionato had huge voices, in this record they sound cold, mechanical and uninvolved. I mean they are both in INCREDIBLE form but they sound like they are singing apart, not with each other.

The 1961 studio recording is, in my opinion, the most thrilling. The electricity between Callas, Corelli and Ludwig is indescribable. Is just a shame that at that time Callas' voice was so damaged.

I still consider that the best Norma EVER, despite the controversies about the cast and the conducting, is the 1954 studio recording: a rock solid voice with the most breathtaking flexibility and vertiginous coloratura.

Even if I personally find this 1955 version technically peerless but cold, experts say it is a legendary record so I could be wrong.
Raymond M. Bercse | 05/22/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is as near perfect a performance of Norma as one could wish for. Maria Callas opened the 1955-56 season at La Scala as the protagonist. In the first verse of 'Casta Diva', she is somewhat cautious. Nerves always plagued her when singing this aria. In the second verse the voice is more assured, and by the time of the cabaleta, 'Ah bello a me ritorna', her voice is completely under control and is capped by a secure high C. In the second scene of Act One, Callas utilizes her myriad of vocal colors, as if she had an artists palette to express Norma's anguish, happiness and anger. She sings with great nuance and yet, freedom and abandon. The high C in 'Ah Si Fa Core Abbraciami', the cabaletta to the Norma/Adalgisa duet, 'Oh Rimembranza', causes audible gasps from the audience. The note is sung mezzo forte, diminished, and followed by an incredible glissandi.
At the end of the Act One trio, which concludes the act, Callas unleashes a long held solid high D which seems to get louder and louder as the note is sustained. The audience is in a state of pandemonium. I digress at this point.

How could any singer perform these vocal feats without proper breath support and lung power. This is why I disagree with those pundits that claim her weight loss adversely affected her voice. They remark that there was a loss of muscle mass. My theory is that without the excess weight, the breathing is easier. In the late 1940's and early 50's, particularly in the heavier roles, she often employed a dark, thick covered tone for dramatic effect. When she sang more of the bel canto repertoire, she sang with a lighter tone and more forward placement. She was no longer contented with just singing overtly. The question here is whether she went against nature. The natural voice was a large, dark dramatic soprano with coloratura flexibility. When she lightened the voice for the coloratura roles, perhaps she went against nature. This could have been the result of less power and volume in the voice as her career progressed. Callas had once opined that she over intellectualized her voice and went against her natural vocal endowments. None of these observations has any relevance to weight loss. Now back to the performance.

In the last of Norma, Callas does some of her finest singing. In the "Mira Norma' duet, the voice caresses the words, 'Ah perche perche' with delicacy and beauty. In contrast, when she sings the high C on the word 'Roman' the sound is penetrating and clarion. 'In mia man alfin tu sei' is sung with a menacing chest voice. The word 'Son io', when Norma lifts her veil is astonishing. The note is sustained softly and has an ethereal quality, which provokes more gasps from the audience. This was perhaps Callas' greatest documented performance. She attains a high degree of perfection, at the same time delivers a moving and poignant interpretation.

Giulietta Simionato as Adalgisa sings with rich tone and easy high notes. Mario Del Monaco as Pollione has heft and squillo, and Nicola Zaccaria as Oroveso invests authority and nobility. Antonino Votto's conducting is intense and at the same time allows the singers to take liberties. The best transfer of this Norma is on Divina Records. Just type Divina HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!

Erik Novoa | Westport, CT United States | 05/13/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This recording of Norma is perhaps legendary. It provides the finest cast of its time in an Opera that requires the best of the best. Needless to say Callas defines the role of Norma. It's impossible to have a credible conversation about Norma without naming Callas. Mario Del Monaco was probably the finest Pollione. Even Corelli did not have the triumphant heroic size voice required to due justice to the character of the roman proconsul.

Fortunately, Both Callas and Del Monaco are at their finest and their moments together on stage are absolutely electric. Its almost inconceivable to comprehend the actual volume that these two individuals were able to create. We're not talking about the little pussy-cats that sing Norma these days....we're talking about Lions.

Usually a great Norma could conclude there...enter Simionato. Simionato is said to be one of the few other singers that Callas respected. Their duet is absolutely flawless both in note and tempo.

This is definitely the Norma for which all other Normas should be compared. Good luck."