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Thread: Bellini on cd.......................

  1. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fritz Kobus View Post
    My rankings of La Sonnambula recordings is biased by my unconventional way of ranking which lies more heavily on certain voices and sound quality, which generally leaves Callas out of the top running because of sound quality alone.
    All reviews of opera recordings are biased based on what the listener's priorities are. That's why I try to describe the recordings in an objective way as well as pick favourites. For Sonnambula my priorities are as follows:

    1) Emotional commitment to the role of Amina
    2) Singers in the roles of Elvino and the Conte
    3) Conducting that stops the work from becoming too staid and prosaic, however beautiful the lyrical sweep of the music might be
    4) Singer in the role of Lisa
    5) Sound quality

    So if I put the eight recordings I reviewed in order they come out as:

    Top Tier (In order of preference)
    Callas 1955
    Callas Studio 1957
    Sutherland 1980

    Next Favourite (again in order of preference)
    Callas live versions 1957
    Bartoli
    Pagliughi
    Sutherland 1962

    Lowest Tier
    Dessay

    So we agree that we both don't like the Dessay recording! But then again when you consider that your main criteria is sound quality and it is my least important then we agree on the nature of the recordings even though we have completely different favourites.

    N.

    P.S. I will see if I can listen to the Orgonasova and Gruberova sets.

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Conte View Post
    So we agree that we both don't like the Dessay recording! But then again when you consider that your main criteria is sound quality and it is my least important then we agree on the nature of the recordings even though we have completely different favourites.

    N.

    P.S. I will see if I can listen to the Orgonasova and Gruberova sets.
    I do like a good Elvino and I rather like a Lisa with a not so beautiful voice so it more matches her character.

    Of course my rankings may change some over time, but I do think Orgonasova will remain at the top for Sonnambula, and to a large degree because I see Durlovsky when I listen. There is a characteristic in both their voices that makes the connection for me, and strongly. Others may not see it or have it very strongly.
    "All of Italian opera can be heard in [Bellini's] "Ah! non creda [mirarti]."
    --Renata Scotto in "Scotto, More Than a DIva."

  4. #33
    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fritz Kobus View Post
    I do like a good Elvino and I rather like a Lisa with a not so beautiful voice so it more matches her character.

    Of course my rankings may change some over time, but I do think Orgonasova will remain at the top for Sonnambula, and to a large degree because I see Durlovsky when I listen. There is a characteristic in both their voices that makes the connection for me, and strongly. Others may not see it or have it very strongly.
    I always see Callas when I listen to her, and yet I never saw her live. It's as if I can see every fleeting change of facial expression.
    Last edited by Tsaraslondon; May-12-2019 at 17:16.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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  6. #34
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    Since I reviewed recordings of La Sonnambula I have listened to the Naxos one:

    Sonnambula.jpg

    This would seem to be a recording from a concert performance as there is clapping at some points and I guess it was a Netherlands radio broadcast. It would seem to come from one live radio concert without patching sessions being recorded as there are a couple of mistakes here and there. The sound is generally good, as are the perfromances. I've always liked Gimenez's pleasant tone and his sings this part well, despite having less character than Pavarotti or Florez and less style than Valletti who would be my three favourite Elvinos. Bel Canto specialist Zedda conducts and shows that he has a fine feeling for this repertoire, he is a touch placid and lacking in drama (this is Sonnambula as concert piece rather than theatre piece). However he brings out the lyrical beauty of Bellini's writing in this his most elegiac work. I would prefer a more dynamic and animated approach, however.

    The bass Francesco Ellero d'Artegna is completely new to me and his Conte Rodolfo is nicely done if perhaps rather blandly. However, it is the soprano that we are mostly interested in in this opera. Orgonasova has the technique to sing the part and her voice is light, yet has enough steel to make her more than a canary imitator. She is quite expressive in her final aria and it's more engaging than we often hear, however she is far less committed in her act one entrance aria where she sounds far less in the role. Overall this feels like a presentation of Bellini's score (and beautifully done) rather than a performance of a piece of music theatre and that would be my main reason for not putting it amongst my favourites. It reminds me in some respects of the Abbado Capuleti where all is perfection and grace, but without excitement or dramatic punch. You can get away with that to a certain degree in Sonnambula, however there should be some atmosphere of a story unfolding before our eyes rather than just a long musical melos.

    N.
    Last edited by The Conte; Jun-04-2019 at 21:41.

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  8. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Conte View Post
    Since I reviewed recordings of La Sonnambula I have listened to the Naxos one:

    Sonnambula.jpg

    This would seem to be a recording from a concert performance as there is clapping at some points and I guess it was a Netherlands radio broadcast. It would seem to come from one live radio concert without patching sessions being recorded as there are a couple of mistakes here and there. The sound is generally good, as are the perfromances. I've always liked Gimenez's pleasant tone and his sings this part well, despite having less character than Pavarotti or Florez and less style than Valletti who would be my three favourite Elvinos. Bel Canto specialist Zedda conducts and shows that he has a fine feeling for this repertoire, he is a touch placid and lacking in drama (this is Sonnambula as concert piece rather than theatre piece). However he brings out the lyrical beauty of Bellini's writing in this his most elegiac work. I would prefer a more dynamic and animated approach, however.

    The bass Francesco Ellero d'Artegna is completely new to me and his Conte Rodolfo is nicely done if perhaps rather blandly. However, it is the soprano that we are mostly interested in in this opera. Orgonasova has the technique to sing the part and her voice is light, yet has enough steel to make her more than a canary imitator. She is quite expressive in her final aria and it's more engaging than we often hear, however she is far less committed in her act one entrance aria where she sounds far less in the role. Overall this feels like a presentation of Bellini's score (and beautifully done) rather than a performance of a piece of music theatre and that would be my main reason for not putting it amongst my favourites. It reminds me in some respects of the Abbado Capuleti where all is perfection and grace, but without excitement or dramatic punch. You can get away with that to a certain degree in Sonnambula, however there should be some atmosphere of a story unfolding before our eyes rather than just a long musical melos.

    N.
    Thanks for the review. I know that my preference for this one came on after watching the wonderful Sonnambula DVD with Ana Durlovsky and because Luba's voice reminds me of Anna's regardless how much others may or may not see that. Otherwise, if not for this performance, my favorite Sonnambula would be the one with Gruberova.
    "All of Italian opera can be heard in [Bellini's] "Ah! non creda [mirarti]."
    --Renata Scotto in "Scotto, More Than a DIva."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fritz Kobus View Post
    Thanks for the review. I know that my preference for this one came on after watching the wonderful Sonnambula DVD with Ana Durlovsky and because Luba's voice reminds me of Anna's regardless how much others may or may not see that. Otherwise, if not for this performance, my favorite Sonnambula would be the one with Gruberova.
    So now I have to track down and review the Gruberova???



    I imagine that Gruberova would be excellent as Amina, however there is strong competition as there are now quite a few sets of the opera (possibly more than any other Bellini opera).

    N.

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    This one is pretty good too:


    FRONT IMAGE

    Bigger BACK IMAGE
    Last edited by Fritz Kobus; Jun-08-2019 at 16:26.
    "All of Italian opera can be heard in [Bellini's] "Ah! non creda [mirarti]."
    --Renata Scotto in "Scotto, More Than a DIva."

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    Senior Member Op.123's Avatar
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    Until recently I'd probably have recommended the 1955 Scala performance as the reference recording for Norma but while that is certainly one of the greatest operatic performances on disc another recording, from half a year earlier in Rome, needs to be taken into consideration.

    The obvious differences are the conductor, Serfin in Rome and Votto at Scala, the different orchestra and chorus, Ebe Stignani as opposed to Simionato as Adalgisa and Modesti instead of Zaccaria as Oroveso. Serafin's conducting of the Rome performance has been criticised for lacking dramatic impact, but I don't find that at all, the only place a slightly faster tempo might have worked better is the finale of act 1 but that is made up for as he opens up one of Votto's more thoughtless cuts. Although Serafin does use a cut score Votto takes it even further and starts cutting away at essential material such as the finale of act 1 and the duet between Norma and Pollione in act 2. Serafin certainly does push on with the tempos when needed however, with a stunning 'Squilla il bronzo'. I also find the orchestra here more responsive, although that may just be a result of the better sound quality. The chorus too is excellent. Stignani is past her prime, but still wonderful, just a little too mature sounding for Adalgisa, Simionato is better but not by a great margin. Between Modesti and Zaccaria I have little preference, both are perfectly suitable.

    Callas's Norma is one of her greatest conceptions and both of these recordings are essential. In Rome she is a little more nuanced than in Milan, you hear more of the vulnerable woman beneath the exterior of the self-sacrificing priestess. The 'casta diva' in Rome is more secure than in Milan, totally beguiling in it's nocturnal mysticism. Callas deals with the cabaletta with stunning virtuosity in both recordings. The first duet with Adalgisa is more affecting too in Rome, with the passionate recollection of 'Oh, cari accenti' more heart-felt than on any other version. The following 'Ah sì, fa core...' sounds a little gentler than on the Scala version, more inkeeping with the sentiments expressed. Both readings of 'Oh, non tremare, o perfido' are miraculous and Callas makes the most of both finales, although the other two singers do not handle the slower tempo in Rome as well as Callas. The high Db at La Scala is more thrilling. The second duet with Adalgisa is done beautifully in Rome but Simionato in Scala is certainly more vocally equipped. The biggest differences come in the final scene. Callas is fiercer in the big duet with Pollione in Milan but in Rome she is more nuanced and has her chest voice ever sounded so dark as in the first phrases of 'In mia man alfin...'? The 'son io', more steady in Rome, is felt with greater impact at La Scala, prompting an immediate reaction from the audience. In the earlier performance Callas is more loving in 'Qual cor tradisti' but the the section with the chorus lacks some of the impact of the later performance. Both prayers ('Deh! Non volerli vittime') are among some of Callas's most poigniant singing on record but, possibly just because of the better audio quality, the elagic final trio is better heard in Rome.

    Del Monaco is possibly in stronger voice in Rome, but his performances are quite similar for the most part. He makes a brilliant Pollione and his lack of deep characterisation matters less in a role like this. The Scala audio quality is better than many of their other broadcasts from around the same time but the sound is harsh and sometimes rather uncomfortable. There is a good remaster by Pristine but it does not completely solve the problems and there is plenty of noise from the audience too. The performance in Rome is captured in remarkably good sound, however, it is not perfect but along with the Berlin Lucia is one of the best preservations of the 'Callas sound' from her short prime.

    If I was asked to choose I'd probably go for the Rome broadcast, for a clearer insight to the complex character of Norma, however since I can have both, I will. Ask me another day and I might prefer the performance from Milan. Both are essential documents to Bellini's art as well as Callas's.
    Last edited by Op.123; Sep-13-2019 at 16:30.

  13. #39
    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Op.123 View Post
    Until recently I'd probably have recommended the 1955 Scala performance as the reference recording for Norma but while that is certainly one of the greatest operatic performances on disc another recording, from half a year earlier in Rome, needs to be taken into consideration.

    The obvious differences are the conductor, Serfin in Rome and Votto at Scala, the different orchestra and chorus, Ebe Stignani as opposed to Simionato as Adalgisa and Modesti instead of Zaccaria as Oroveso. Serafin's conducting of the Rome performance has been criticised for lacking dramatic impact, but I don't find that at all, the only place a slightly faster tempo might have worked better is the finale of act 1 but that is made up for as he opens up one of Votto's more thoughtless cuts. Although Serafin does use a cut score Votto takes it even further and starts cutting away at essential material such as the finale of act 1 and the duet between Norma and Pollione in act 2. Serafin certainly does push on with the tempos when needed however, with a stunning 'Squilla il bronzo'. I also find the orchestra here more responsive, although that may just be a result of the better sound quality. The chorus too is excellent. Stignani is past her prime, but still wonderful, just a little too mature sounding for Adalgisa, Simionato is better but not by a great margin. Between Modesti and Zaccaria I have little preference, both are perfectly suitable.

    Callas's Norma is one of her greatest conceptions and both of these recordings are essential. In Rome she is a little more nuanced than in Milan, you hear more of the vulnerable woman beneath the exterior of the self-sacrificing priestess. The 'casta diva' in Rome is more secure than in Milan, totally beguiling in it's nocturnal mysticism. Callas deals with the cabaletta with stunning virtuosity in both recordings. The first duet with Adalgisa is more affecting too in Rome, with the passionate recollection of 'Oh, cari accenti' more heart-felt than on any other version. The following 'Ah sì, fa core...' sounds a little gentler than on the Scala version, more inkeeping with the sentiments expressed. Both readings of 'Oh, non tremare, o perfido' are miraculous and Callas makes the most of both finales, although the other two singers do not handle the slower tempo in Rome as well as Callas. The high Db at La Scala is more thrilling. The second duet with Adalgisa is done beautifully in Rome but Simionato in Scala is certainly more vocally equipped. The biggest differences come in the final scene. Callas is fiercer in the big duet with Pollione in Milan but in Rome she is more nuanced and has her chest voice ever sounded so dark as in the first phrases of 'In mia man alfin...'? The 'son io', more steady in Rome, is felt with greater impact at La Scala, prompting an immediate reaction from the audience. In the earlier performance Callas is more loving in 'Qual cor tradisti' but the the section with the chorus lacks some of the impact of the later performance. Both prayers ('Deh! Non volerli vittime') are among some of Callas's most poigniant singing on record but, possibly just because of the better audio quality, the elagic final trio is better heard in Rome.

    Del Monaco is possibly in stronger voice in Rome, but his performances are quite similar for the most part. He makes a brilliant Pollione and his lack of deep characterisation matters less in a role like this. The Scala audio quality is better than many of their other broadcasts from around the same time but the sound is harsh and sometimes rather uncomfortable. There is a good remaster by Pristine but it does not completely solve the problems and there is plenty of noise from the audience too. The performance in Rome is captured in remarkably good sound, however, it is not perfect but along with the Berlin Lucia is one of the best preservations of the 'Callas sound' from her short prime.

    If I was asked to choose I'd probably go for the Rome broadcast, for a clearer insight to the complex character of Norma, however since I can have both, I will. Ask me another day and I might prefer the performance from Milan. Both are essential documents to Bellini's art as well as Callas's.
    It's a long time since I've heard it, but I remember finding Callas less nuanced in Rome than at La Scala. Simionato tips the balance in favour of La Scala for me too, and I prefer Zaccaria to Modesti, though both are fine. Votto is not exactly a strong presence in the pit, but, with a Callas, did he really need to be? You sense, particularly in the last act, that it is Callas who is leading and dictating the tempo, her rubato wonderfully free, though she somehow never loses the natural pulse of the music.

    The conditions of the two performances are different as well of course. Rome was a concert performance for radio, whereas La Scala was of course fully staged, which might account for some of the differences in interpretation.

    I obviously need to hear Rome again to see if my reactions have changed.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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  15. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tsaraslondon View Post
    It's a long time since I've heard it, but I remember finding Callas less nuanced in Rome than at La Scala. Simionato tips the balance in favour of La Scala for me too, and I prefer Zaccaria to Modesti, though both are fine. Votto is not exactly a strong presence in the pit, but, with a Callas, did he really need to be? You sense, particularly in the last act, that it is Callas who is leading and dictating the tempo, her rubato wonderfully free, though she somehow never loses the natural pulse of the music.

    The conditions of the two performances are different as well of course. Rome was a concert performance for radio, whereas La Scala was of course fully staged, which might account for some of the differences in interpretation.

    I obviously need to hear Rome again to see if my reactions have changed.
    Yes, maybe less nuanced is the wrong term, just a slightly different conception. I feel a certain amount more femininity in the Rome Norma but at Scala she is even more ferocious in some sections, the 'Adalgisa fia punita' for example is possibly the most furious singing I can think of. Indeed the staged production could have had an effect, it was a big production with an unforgiving landscape, this might have inspired some of the primal rage of some of her singing. I'm still more fond of the Rome performance where she is certainly fiery too, Callas always was when called for. Both performances are undoubtedly essential though, I doubt we will see the standard set here, now over 60 years ago, surpassed in our lifetimes.
    Last edited by Op.123; Sep-13-2019 at 22:52.
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  17. #41
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    I haven't listened to the Rome performance in a while (although I listened to Rome vs. Milan back to back some years ago. I agree that the main differences (conductor, Adalgisa and sound quality) mean that the Rome recording has much in its favour. I prefer Serafin over Votto and the differences in sound speak for themselves. Whilst I prefer Simionato's more impassioned and convincing Adalgisa over Stignani's, I prefer the soprano/mezzo duets in Rome as the voices blend together better and they are only equaled in that respect by Caballe and Sutherland in their studio recording.

    However, I still prefer the Scala performance as Callas is more in the role than in Rome and that is why it is considered her best Norma. Callas impresses as much in the recitatives and ariosi as she does in arias and ensembles and the opening of act two in the Milan performance - was Callas (or Norma) ever more desperate than this? - has never been equaled let alone surpassed, even by Callas herself.

    N.

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    And so... on to Norma in my survey of all of Bellini's operas on CD.

    The first two recordings of the opera come from 1937 and feature Gina Cigna in the title role. The first is a live recording from the Met conducted by Ettore Panizza and the second is a Cetra studio recording with Gui in charge of the Turin RAI orchestra. Cigna was the Norma of the moment coming after Ponselle and before Milanov. People will no doubt have been comparing her Casta Diva with that of Ponselle (who never recorded the role complete). Cigna is a dramatic soprano whose finest moments were Turandot and Aida and she lacks the subtlety to do justice to Bellini's classical heroine. She is better in the studio recording as her top notes are more secure and her intonation more under control. Gui concentrates on the grandeur of the atmosphere of the setting and the music rolls pleasantly by. The supporting cast is better at the Met, but it's worth hearing Ebe Stignani's Adalgisa in fresher voice than it would be when she recorded the role with Callas and Tancredi Pasero is the type of dependable bass that doesn't seem to exist anymore. The tenor, Breviario is a disappointment.

    The recording studio favoured Cigna as she could record passages a second time, whereas at the Met if she squawked above the stave (and she did) it was tough luck! In both recordings there is a lack of colour and shade and her interpretation is rather beige. She also doesn't have the class or style of a Ponselle to make up for it. She is more expressive in the scena at the start of act two at least and there is more variety in the live recording where Panizza's conducting is more dramatic and less static than Gui's. Adalgisa is the superb Bruna Castagna, every bit as good as Stignani. However, it is the tenor and bass who make this recording worthwhile. If you are familiar with Martinelli and Pinza, then they are just as you would expect here, with Pinza producing his characteristic large, yet warm, rounded sound and Martinelli possibly the most heroic Pollione on disc.

    Recordings of Norma stand or fall depending on who the soprano in the title role is and neither of these two is essential I would say.

    N - Cigna.jpg

    N - Pinza.jpg

    N.

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