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

  1. #46
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    More recent recordings have been somewhat disappointing and there are some that I have only heard once or not at all (Scotto, Sills, Eaglen and some of the live ones). One of the more interesting accounts was the experimental period edition staring Bartoli.

    N - Bartoli.jpg

    I enjoyed listening to this account and it makes a difference when on a Norma release the Maria imitator is trying to imitate Malibran rather than Callas! However, I wasn't totally convinced by the classical approach here. The idea is that Norma is taken by a light mezzo (with the assumption that Malibran - one of the great Normas of the 19th century - sounded like Bartoli), whilst Adalgisa is a light soprano (thus making Sumi Jo the resurrection of Giulia Grisi one supposes!) As I say, I'm not totally convinced, but then I wasn't horrified as some were by this release. If you like beauty of tone and good, modern studio sound then this is well worth trying out, but I can't say that it is in any way essential.

    N.

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  3. #47
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    To sum up, Callas' stereo studio account is the best recording overall:

    N - Callas 1960.jpg

    Whereas this is by far the greatest performance of the title role (of utmost importance in this opera, just as it is in Traviata or Butterfly):

    N - Callas 1955.jpg

    For modern studio sound and to hear the opera with no cuts, this tops the bill:

    N - Sutherland II.jpg

    Fans of Callas, Caballe, Sutherland, Souliotis, Del Monaco, Martinelli, Vickers, Domingo, Horne or Cossotto will want some of the other sets as well, but the above three are essential for any opera collection as Norma is a cornerstone of the rep. What other opera unites the classical with the romantic, the big scenes of grand opera with the intimate exchanges of opera seria and the drama of the through composed arioso with the beautiful line of the bel canto aria?

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  4. #48
    Senior Member DarkAngel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Conte View Post
    More recent recordings have been somewhat disappointing and there are some that I have only heard once or not at all (Scotto, Sills, Eaglen and some of the live ones). One of the more interesting accounts was the experimental period edition staring Bartoli.

    N - Bartoli.jpg

    I enjoyed listening to this account and it makes a difference when on a Norma release the Maria imitator is trying to imitate Malibran rather than Callas! However, I wasn't totally convinced by the classical approach here. The idea is that Norma is taken by a light mezzo (with the assumption that Malibran - one of the great Normas of the 19th century - sounded like Bartoli), whilst Adalgisa is a light soprano (thus making Sumi Jo the resurrection of Giulia Grisi one supposes!) As I say, I'm not totally convinced, but then I wasn't horrified as some were by this release. If you like beauty of tone and good, modern studio sound then this is well worth trying out, but I can't say that it is in any way essential.

    N.
    Count me as one of the "horrified" so far beyond the skill set and technical ability of Bartoli's voice with constant strained open vibrato it is a comical attempt at Norma and you wonder why informed "friends" did not advise her better......listen to climax of "bello me ritorna" complete MIA let down

    Last edited by DarkAngel; Nov-17-2019 at 17:48.

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  6. #49
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    Beatrice di Tenda

    At one time this was my favourite Bellini opera and I can't understand why it still remains very much a rarity. Capuleti is performed more often (perhaps opera companies think the Romeo and Juliet story gets more bums on seats). However Beatrice is as good as Capuleti or Maria Stuarda or Anna Bolena, all of which seem to have been performed more often. A number of years ago I listened to the available recordings and the best prima donna to record the title role was without doubt Sutherland. (This isn't surprising since neither Callas or Caballe sang the part.)

    B - Sutherland.jpg

    The set was recorded in classic Decca sound and whilst I would prefer the more sophisticated, poetic touch of a Serafin at the helm, Bonynge is reliable, even if he underlines the ta-tum in the rum-ta-tum of Bellini's simple orchestral accompaniments too much. Sutherland is wonderful and plays the wronged heroine superbly. The recording was made in 1966, so before her mannerisms and mushy diction had crept in. Cornelius Opthof in the baritone role of Filippo (which is the only other true principal) is competent if not superb and in any case he is better than the alternatives on the other recordings. The casting of the smaller mezzo and tenor roles with Veasey and Pavarotti is a welcome luxury. All round then, there is much to recommend this recording and its shortcomings are few and of minor importance.

    The other recordings I know are the ones with Aliberti conducted by Luisi and Nicolesco with Zedda at the helm. I didn't feel that either of these really did justice to the work mainly because neither soprano is in the league of Sutherland both vocally and dramatically. The baritones in these sets don't rise to the occasion either (although I understand if some prefer Cappuccilli to Opthof, but I'm not a fan).

    B - Aliberti.jpgB - Nicolesco.jpg

    There is also a recording with Gruberova, but her light toned voice isn't suited to the title role. The Sutherland set is the easy winner of those available.

    N.
    Last edited by The Conte; Nov-30-2019 at 12:22.

  7. #50
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    I Puritani

    My Bellini survey is at an end.

    Earlier on in this thread I said that when it comes to Bellini operas on CD a good rule of thumb is to get the Callas recording if there is one and if not to go with the Caballe or Sutherland. In actual fact getting the Bellini opera recordings of all three is a good start to any collection. I Puritani shares with Norma the distinction of there being recordings featuring all three divas. There are also other recordings beyond these four, but the ones that I have heard don't live up to them.

    P - Caballe.jpg

    Caballe isn't quite right for Elvira and doesn't convince me that she is an innocent maiden (she was always better as the wronged noble woman like Imogene, Anna Bolena or Maria Stuarda than the droopy maiden roles). Krauss and Manguerra are distinguished in their roles and offer refined, italianate readings of their parts. However, this recording doesn't quite add up and I'm not fond of Muti's rum-ta-tum approach to the score, which has far more poetry than he allows for. This is only essential for fans of the singers involved (even though I think it is a complete recording).


    P - Sutherland I.jpg

    Sutherland's first recording has her in superbly fresh voice and this is one of the most sympathetic portrayals of Elvira on disc. She is surrounded by decent, if not first rate, singers in the supporting roles and this is a recording that is worth having, especially if you are a Sutherland fan. Unfortunately it isn't complete (the coda to the act one finale is cut).


    P - Sutherland II.jpg

    This is the most complete of recordings (and even includes an extra aria at the end that Malibran interpolated into her performances of the role). This is late Sutherland and if you are adverse to her mushy diction and crooning that characterise her singing at this point in her career, then you will probably prefer her earlier recording. The reason that I would choose this one over that earlier set (other than this one presenting the score uncut) is the superb supporting cast. This is possibly the best stereo recording, complete, in perfect sound and with a cast that is almost unsurpassed.


    P - Callas.jpg

    Despite its odd title, the opera is focused on the character of Elvira and it should be no surprise that Callas in her prime (1953) is the best Elvira on disc. The supporting cast is very strong (Di Stefano, Panerai and Rossi Lemeni) and with Tulio Serafin conducting you understand what Bellini was trying to do with his poetic, lyrical melodies and simple accompaniments. It's easy to present his music as hackneyed band filler, but Serafin understands and believes in the power of this composer's neoclassical voice.

    The second Sutherland set is the one I get out when I want to hear the opera complete, but it's the Callas set that gets to the heart of what this opera is about for me. I wouldn't be without either.

    N.
    Last edited by The Conte; Dec-08-2019 at 13:01.

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