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Thread: Looking for recommendations for a La Sonnambula CD

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    Senior Member Fritz Kobus's Avatar
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    Default Looking for recommendations for a La Sonnambula CD

    I have 3 CDs of La Sonnambula and one DVD with the following Aminas:

    Luba Orgonasova
    Mariella Devia
    Maria Callas (1957 Live)
    Eva Mei on DVD (wish this were on a CD also)

    So I am looking at the Sutherland Pavarotti La Sonnambula and like it a lot, but people are saying Sutherland sings better on one from the early 1960s. I checked one of those out and it did not seem to have as good of sound quality, so I am leaning towards the one with Pavarotti which I believe is about 1980. Also the price is much better.

    I might be open to other Aminas too, but was kind of drawn back to this opera because of Sutherland.

    Oh, I suppose Bartoli would be an interesting Amina, though I thought Amina was supposed to be a soprano.
    Last edited by Fritz Kobus; Dec-16-2014 at 07:37.
    "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 Itullian's Avatar
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    This one?
    When all else fails, listen to Thick as a Brick.

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    Senior Member Fritz Kobus's Avatar
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    That one will set me back $30. Can't justify it at that price, but can keep it on my radar.

    Seems there are several different Sutherland Sonnambulas other than the Pavarotti one (are any of these good?):

    "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 Fritz Kobus's Avatar
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    Also, since I have the live Callas Sonnambula it also would be nice to get the studio version which has much higher sound quality:
    "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 Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Florestan View Post
    Also, since I have the live Callas Sonnambula it also would be nice to get the studio version which has much higher sound quality:
    Even better in the recent Warner Remastering

    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Florestan View Post
    I have 3 CDs of La Sonnambula and one DVD with the following Aminas:

    Luba Orgonasova
    Mariella Devia
    Maria Callas (1957 Live)
    Eva Mei on DVD (wish this were on a CD also)

    So I am looking at the Sutherland Pavarotti La Sonnambula and like it a lot, but people are saying Sutherland sings better on one from the early 1960s. I checked one of those out and it did not seem to have as good of sound quality, so I am leaning towards the one with Pavarotti which I believe is about 1980. Also the price is much better.

    I might be open to other Aminas too, but was kind of drawn back to this opera because of Sutherland.

    Oh, I suppose Bartoli would be an interesting Amina, though I thought Amina was supposed to be a soprano.
    With Sutherland you get mushy diction and droopy portamenti in the 1960s one. She is slightly more energised in the second one, though her diction is still not great, and the rest of the cast is better, but she now sounds a trifle mature. Swings and roundabouts I suppose.

    The role of Amina was written for a soprano (Giuditta Pasta, who was also the first Norma), but Bellini made downward transpositions for Maria Malibran, who was his favourite singer and probably more of a mezzo. This is the version Bartoli sings, but she doesn't sound remotely right to me. Altogether too vibrant, and those aspirated runs bother me a lot. Von Stade sang this version at Covent Garden once. Too bad she didn't record it. I'd have thought she'd have been ideal.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    Senior Member Itullian's Avatar
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    I have this one and like it.
    Last edited by Itullian; Dec-17-2014 at 10:18.
    When all else fails, listen to Thick as a Brick.

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    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Itullian View Post


    I have this one and like it.
    The first CD issue of both the Callas Edition set that Florestan posted and the Warner re-master I posted above.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    Senior Member Itullian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GregMitchell View Post
    The first CD issue of both the Callas Edition set that Florestan posted and the Warner re-master I posted above.
    Thanks, I knew it was an oldie.
    When all else fails, listen to Thick as a Brick.

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    Actually, both Giuditta Pasta and Maria Malibran were considered as 'soprano sfogato', a voice that was able to manage the low notes in a way similar to a mezzo, or even an alto, but retained the high notes and the agility of a bona-fide soprano.

    The only source of "La Sonnambula" that can be attributed to Bellini, is the original manuscript of the Milan premiere, sang by Pasta and Rubini. The so-called Malibran version was probably written by Malibran herself, of by Henry Bishop.

    Amina, instead of by Pasta or Malibran, was being sung in the 20th century by very light sopranos, until Maria Callas rescued the role. The Amina that Callas sang with Bernstein is in my view nothing short of a prodigy.

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    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by schigolch View Post
    Actually, both Giuditta Pasta and Maria Malibran were considered as 'soprano sfogato', a voice that was able to manage the low notes in a way similar to a mezzo, or even an alto, but retained the high notes and the agility of a bona-fide soprano.

    The only source of "La Sonnambula" that can be attributed to Bellini, is the original manuscript of the Milan premiere, sang by Pasta and Rubini. The so-called Malibran version was probably written by Malibran herself, of by Henry Bishop.

    Amina, instead of by Pasta or Malibran, was being sung in the 20th century by very light sopranos, until Maria Callas rescued the role. The Amina that Callas sang with Bernstein is in my view nothing short of a prodigy.
    You're no doubt right about Malibran creating her own versions, but everything I have read suggests to me that Malibran's voice lay lower than Pasta's, hence the Malibran version of Maria Stuarda, which gives the role of Maria to a mezzo and that of Elisabetta to a soprano. Baker and Di Donato sing the Malibran version, whilst Sutherland, Caballe and Gruberova would sing it in the higher keys (with a mezzo Elizabetta). (I am not, by the way suggesting that Pasta sang Maria, she did not).

    That said there is little doubt that Pasta sang Norma in higher keys than Malibran, hence the keys used on Bartoli's recent recording.

    But, as you say, Amina came to be sung by very light voiced (soubrettish even) sopranos in the 20th century, whilst Norma went to large voiced dramatic sopranos who didn't have the necessary agility (Ponselle always excepted of course).

    Unfortunately we now seem to have gone back to thinking that Amina should be sung by light, high coloraturas, some even opining that Callas's voice was too heavy and that she had no right to be singing it, until we point out that it was written for Pasta, the creator of Norma. That fact always takes them aback.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    Senior Member DarkAngel's Avatar
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    As mentioned above by others the studio Callas is essential Sonnambula, the first studio version by Sutherland is preferred by me over later one with Pavarotti since her voice is more opaque (mushy) in comparison......

    I wish there was a Anna Moffo studio Sonnambula, I have heard live tracks and she is very capable Amina......

    Last edited by DarkAngel; Dec-17-2014 at 15:34.

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    Senior Member The nose's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Florestan View Post
    Oh, I suppose Bartoli would be an interesting Amina, though I thought Amina was supposed to be a soprano.
    I liked her in the role of Amina but i think she's more a Lisa.
    Last edited by The nose; Dec-17-2014 at 15:38.
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    Well, it's clear we most probably will never know for certain, but I doubt that Malibran sang "Norma" in different (and lower) keys than Pasta. Please remember that the great triumph of Malibran singing the Norma at La Scala, was attended by none other than Bellini himself. And he has only praise for the singer ("from now on, anything that Malibran would wish, Bellini will do)". Not likely that she was transposing down the role, taking into account that Bellini has already done that for Pasta herself, at the premiere, arranging 'Casta Diva' to be sung in F major, instead of G major!. I have a hard time figuring Malibran singing this elegiac piece in E major...

    To make full justice to the role of Amina, we need in my view a voice like Callas, or like Sutherland. Light voices will never produce the same effect, the one Bellini was looking for. Unfortunately, when we have singers like Ms. Bartoli claiming that she is singing the "real" Amina, this can only produce confusion into the minds of many people in the audience.

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    Senior Member Fritz Kobus's Avatar
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    Well I am more inclined to get the studio Callas CD than the remaster. The live version I have is not that bad really, and after listing to it last night I gained a much better appreciation of it.

    I do think a Sutherland Sonnambula would be a good addition to my collection, but am still inclined to the Pavarotti performance for sound quality, though apparently Sutherland is having to reach to hit the high notes. An well, maybe not get any Sutherland Sonnambula as I have her wonderful voice on my Daughter of the Regiment (with Pavarotti) and that is an excellent performance. Also she sings one part of Sonnambula on the CD I just purchased "The Art of the Prima Donna" which was recorded in 1960 at the Royal Opera House, Covenant Garden. The sound quality on that is pretty good.
    "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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