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Having read some of the raves in the press, I was beginning to think I was alone in thinking this Norma was no more than a marketing stunt. It seems today, that putting a new slant on something is the only way of making people interested.
I have listened to extensive excerpts on Spotify now, and all they did was confirm my belief that Bartoli is no Norma. The work comes out of it somehow smaller, a mere domestic drama, not the great tragedy some of us know it to be. We may have our personal preferences for Callas, for Caballe or or Sutherland, but at least each one of those divas realised the signifcance of the work, a significance not lost on even Wagner.
I can't believe the claptrap the marketing men are coming out with about Norma having been heretofore treated as a verismo opera. Really? There may have been a few sopranos pre Callas, and quite a few post, who didn't really have the technique to pull it of, but Callas most assuredly did, as did Ponselle in the era before her. Sutherland, in her final recording, also tried to record the opera in something like its original keys, when Caballe was chosen to sing Adalgisa, not forgetting that the creator of the role of Adalgisa went on to sing Norma herself. I sincerley hope Sumi Jo is not contemplating a similar move.
I have no doubt this recording will soon be forgotten, that the staus quo will soon be resumed, and choice will return to one of the recordings by Callas, Sutherland or Caballe. Sadly we are still awaiting a Norma for the 21st century.
...and we are going to wait for some time (maybe long enough) for this Norma for 21th century.
However, I'm glad I can be in total accord with you as for this Norma of Decca, as you may see from my posts on this thread.
I said previously that I will probably buy this and I did. I must confess that it is growing on me as an alternative view of this opera. The hectic tempo at times is somewhat disarming as is some of the vocal embellishment, some of it interesting in that it surprises and others which makes me wince.
The better part of the recording is the final act when tempos are more relaxed and the artists are intermittently given the space to breath.
What it lacks for me is a certain grandeur, tragedy and depth of characterisation. Much of it is disturbingly presented directly "in your face" - the upfront recording balance doesn't help here - with Ms Bartoli recorded more closely than her colleagues it seems. It reminded me of recordings made by another Decca artist, Luciano Pavarotti, who in later recordings was also recorded rather too close to the microphone at the expense of his colleagues. Such prominence makes the ears prick up but soon becomes aurally tiring. If it was an actual performance I would wish them to go further backstage.
However academic an enterprise the recording purports to be, personally I would not recommend it on a shortlist of Norma recordings. In my view Callas' interpretation of the titular role, whatever her vocal shortcomings were, still stands head and shoulders above others, without forgetting the special qualities of Sutherland, Caballe and to a lesser extent, Scotto.
As far as 21st Century interpretations are concerned, I am looking forward to see what Radvanovsky and Meade bring to the role. Both of them have the potential and opulence to bring much to the role and are scheduled to perform later this year at the Met. Woe betide them if they cancel!
Very well said, Caballe, except for Sutherland. I firmly believe she is a worthy alternative, particularly vocally, to Callas.
As for Radvanovsky and Meade, I would not hold my breath, anyway...
Whereas I do not think she is a worthy alternative at all. As Caballe intimates, the opera, in this new Decca version, emerges somehow smaller, a mere little domestic drama, not the great tragedy we know it to be, and which, in the hands (voice) of Callas it most assuredly is, an element of the opera others, including Sutherland and Caballe, have duly noted. Bartoli nowhere has that capacity for grandeur, largesse, tenderness, rage, the conflict between the private and the public. Bartoli is just a jealous little woman, embroiled in a soap opera plot, involving her lover and her best mate. Perhaps it is a Norma for the modern age. If so, then too bad for the modern age.
I wonder what Ms Bartoli has in her sights next. Maybe she'll record Isolde or Brunnhilde in some new urtext edition. Can't wait!
I have the two CDs of Radvanovsky on Delos (Verdi Opera Scenes and Verdi Arias) and I have seen her DVD of Trovatore (with Alvarez). Definitely, she is a great Verdian lyrical spinto. However, I'm not sure at all how she can develop her art in a role of such a variety of vocal prowess and emotional and acting maturity such as Norma. Tosca should be probably within her comfort zone.
For Meade, there has not been even a single CD. YouTube offers a glimpse of her considerable vocal art, but, still, I believe she needs enough time and growing maturity to produce a memorable, let alone monumental, Norma.
Caballe, the Radvanovsky Tosca isn't until May 2014, so won't be open for booking for some time yet - don't worry!
I've heard the criticism before that Domingo is a 'pushed up baritone' but I've never seen it myself. He has never, of course, had either the 'squillo' of some tenors or an extensive top, but whenever I've seen him he has never displayed the slightest baritonal colouring - and I don't hear it on his records, either. He is a true tenor, and still sings like one in his baritone roles. It's rather like Caruso's recording of the Coat Song - no one, even the singer himself, was fooled into thinking he was a bass.
It's not a matter of range, either, but the wholly absent baritonal weight of the voice which I find deeply unsatisfying, fabulous musician, actor and singer though he unquestionably is.
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