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Bellini: Norma

3.7 out of 5 stars 62 customer reviews

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Audio CD, June 11, 2013
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Editorial Reviews

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 operas original sources.

Cecilia Bartoli leads a fabulous cast in Deccas groundbreaking new recording, which presents Vincenzo Bellinis Norma in a form that is complete with the exquisite mix of vocal and instrumental colours that Bellini intended for his tragic opera. Sumi Jo, John Osborn and Michele Pertusi respectively illuminate the roles of Adalgisa, Pollione and Oroveso. The sounds of period instruments from the composers time, brought to life by Orchestra La Scintilla and conductor Giovanni Antonini, underpin and blend with the timbres of a cast carefully chosen to recreate the individual vocal qualities of the operas roles.

Cecilia Bartolis Norma evokes the style and artistry of the legendary soprano Giuditta Pasta, the operas original heroine. The Italian superstar here continues her mission to reveal lost details of expression and emotional variety in music covered by the dark varnish of later performance traditions. Norma, often portrayed as a superhuman priestess, emerges in Bartolis performance as a woman of flesh and blood, torn between duty and love.

Her interpretation was hailed by the Financial Times as a radical but convincing rethink of the part. Fonoforum wrote of the often moving and touching nature of Bartolis Norma, following her concert performance of the work in Dortmund in August 2010, while Die Zeit described the singers prayer-like account of the operas hit aria Casta Diva as great art, and also a provocation.

Deccas studio recording of Norma employs the latest critical edition of Bellinis score, painstakingly restored from manuscript and early printed sources.

Only in this way can we appreciate once more the true magic, the colour and emotion in this music, observes Cecilia Bartoli in a short essay included as part of the albums elegant hardback presentation. It was my wish, she continues, to bring Bellinis opera closer to the soundworld of the bel canto period.

Norma is set for release in May 2013 in time for the operas first staging in Salzburg as part of the city s annual Whitsun Festival. Cecilia Bartoli, in her second year as artistic director of the Whitsun Festival, will perform the title-role in company with John Osborn, Michele Pertusi, Orchestra La Scintilla and Giovanni Antonini (17 & 19 May). Moshe Leiser and Patrice Cauriers production will be revived in August during the Salzburg Festival, again with Bartoli as Norma.

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Bellini: Sinfonia - Sinfonia
  2. Bellini: Introduzione
  3. Bellini: Svanir le voci!
  4. Bellini: Meco all altar di Venere
  5. Bellini: Me protegge, me difende
  6. Bellini: Norma viene& - Norma viene
  7. Bellini: Sediziose voci
  8. Bellini: Casta Diva - Casta Diva
  9. Bellini: Fine al rito - Fine al rito
  10. Bellini: Ah! bello a me ritorna
  11. Bellini: Sgombra e la sacra selva
  12. Bellini: Deh! proteggimi, o Dio!
  13. Bellini: Eccola! va, mi lascia, ragion non odo
  14. Bellini: Va, crudele, al Dio spietato
  15. Bellini: Vanne, e li cela entrambi
  16. Bellini: Adalgisa! - Adalgisa!
  17. Bellini: Oh! rimembranza!
  18. Bellini: Ah! si, fa core, e abbracciami
  19. Bellini: Ma di... l amato giovane quale fra noi si noma?
  20. Bellini: Oh! di qual sei tu vittima..
  21. Bellini: Perfido!

Disc: 2

  1. Bellini: Scena - Introduzione
  2. Bellini: Mi chiami, o Norma!
  3. Bellini: Deh! con te, con te li prendi
  4. Bellini: Mira, o Norma - Mira, o Norma
  5. Bellini: Si, fino all ore estreme
  6. Bellini: Non parti? - Non parti?
  7. Bellini: Guerrieri! a voi venirne
  8. Bellini: Ah! del Tebro al giogo indegno fremo io pure
  9. Bellini: Ei tornera - Ei tornera
  10. Bellini: Squilla il bronzo del Dio!
  11. Bellini: Guerra, guerra!
  12. Bellini: Ne compi il rito, o Norma?
  13. Bellini: In mia man alfin tu sei..Gia mi pasco ne tuoi sguardi
  14. Bellini: Dammi quel ferro
  15. Bellini: Qual cor tradisti, qual cor perdesti
  16. Bellini: Norma! deh! Norma, scolpati!

Product Details

  • Performer: Cecilia Bartoli, Sumi Jo, John Osborn, Michele Pertusi, Liliana Nikiteanu, et al.
  • Orchestra: Orchstra La Scintilla
  • Conductor: Giovanni Antonini
  • Composer: Vincenzo Bellini
  • Audio CD (June 11, 2013)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Decca
  • ASIN: B00BSO2U1Y
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #67,539 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Maria Callas was the supreme Norma of the last century. She interpreted Norma in a manner that was more consistent with the traditions of Bel Canto than had hitherto been done in the Twentieth Century. However, she was still a child of her time which meant that even though she approached the part with a keen appreciation for the principles of a much older generation, she was nevertheless influenced by more recent musical movements such as Verismo. In addition her supporting casts were often even less attuned to the Bel Canto traditions thus resulting in performances which while often supremely effective did not exactly replicate the sound-world of the time of the opera's composition. To further complicate matters her conductors... and this includes the venerable Tullio Serafin... most often took a more grandiose (and not to mention cut) version of the score. While the performances were effective given their timeframe, they most likely did not represent something that Bellini would have readily recognized.

The first attempt at introducing some corrective measures to this approach occurred with the appearance of the first of Joan Sutherland's two recordings under the baton of her husband Richard Bonynge. For the first time a lighter and more lyrical approach was taken... an approach that attempted to bypass and ignore the traditions propagated by Serafin and other older maestros. In short, Bonynge's version was the first attempt to perform the opera in a early Nineteenth Century manner with a respect for the piece's Rossinian pedigree. Cuts were opened, cabaletta repeats were embellished, and even some textual variations based on Bellini's original autograph score were introduced.
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It should be stated at the outset, that this recording is not, and does not presume to be, one comparable to those of Serafin and Callas and the like. To compare this recording to older ones like Serafin's would be as futile as comparing Klemperer's St. Matthew Passion to that of John Butt's. Rather, it is acknowledged by the artists and by the accompanying materials that the present recording attempts to do something novel for this opera -- replicate *as closely as possible* the forces and practices that Bellini might have intended. Gone are the large forces with rounded sound quality, and voices having to project over them past their healthy limits. Norma was, after all, written only four years after the death of Beethoven. Norma is temporally closer to classical performance practice than later showpieces calling for the innovations of Boito and Verdi, for which greater pressures on the voice were required. It is time for the works of Bellini to be put in context, which is what Bartoli and Antonini attempt here. The differences which are reflected from this are not only inherent, but intentional.

This recording was always bound to open a Pandora's Box of operatic politics. Praising this recording is not mutually exclusive with disrespecting the exalted status of Callas's. It would be like praising new recordings of Bach's keyboard works on harpsichord, while having to discount musical giants like Glenn Gould who recorded the same works on a modern piano. Rather, it is probably most useful to take this recording of Norma and examine it according to its own merits. After all, nothing like it has been done before (though, notably, Callas herself used smaller, more intimate forces for her recording of Norma.
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Remember when people were having many diverse opinions on the very first period instrument recordings of Handel's Messiah? or Handel's Concerti grossi OP.6? The reactive adjustment from one interpretation to another is definitely interesting and expected.

I also have many recordings of Norma (Callas, Gencer, Scotto, Sills, Caballe and Sutherland). I decided to NOT compare this recording to all the old classic ones and listening to it afresh....

The result is infinitely rewarding !!!! I have this opera on heavy rotation since I got this recording and I thoroughly enjoyed and moved by all the performers. The singers, unlike the older recordings (which I also love), portrait the characters in a more humanistic scale and less "monumental" and 'untouchable' as the classic Callas- Caballe- Sills- Sutherland- interpretations.

There are really minimal faults for all the singers, as the project deliberately uses delicate lyrical voices and not the helden- or spinto- voice types to do this recording. I actually find that refreshing.

The Romani-Bellini word-music fusion is even more evident as now the singers can really make EACH word counts.

Even Callas once did something artistically WAY beyond her time at a rehearsal -

"... A coda: In 1957, Maria Callas portrayed Norma in London and sang a very delicate, small-scale "Casta diva" in rehearsal. A colleague complimented her on the approach, and she replied that she considered it the proper way to sing the aria--but that Italian audiences, accustomed to heroic voices, would never stand for it... "

As we see more and more operas being performed with period instruments e.g. Cherubini's Medea, Weber's der freischütz and even Wagner's Der Fliegende Hollander... BArtoli's recording/interpretation is long overdue :)

I highly recommend this recording... alongside with all the classic ones I have mentioned earlier :)
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