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Well, in Bellini's own times, all the tenors were singing in falsettone the high notes. The first Pollione himself, Domenico Donzelli, was using this technique for anything above a G3.

Bellini wanted for the role not Donzelli, but Rubini, only he was not available for the premiere (later, Rubini sang the role at Théâtre des italiens, with Bellini already dead), and he adapted a bit the role to Donzelli's voice.

The voice of Donzelli was rather limited as a coloratura performer. He was the owner of baritonal-like voice, that was singing in full voice up to the high G, and then, using 'falsettone' was able to sing up to a high C (in "Meco all'altar di Venere", Bellini tried to use the capabilities of Donzelli, but he marked the high C as optional, nevertheless).

Of course, we can't know for certain what falsettone was, as of course there are not any recordings from the early 19th century. It was used not in all the tessitura, but only for the high notes. And the note from which it was used was different for each singer. For Rubini himself it was most probably the high C itself, or high B flat.

Also, falsettone was surely a mixed emission, including resonances from the head voice, but also some from the chest voice. In Italian, it has been described as 'pieno con consonanza di testa'. Personally, I don't think it was something fundamentally different (humans being humans in the 19th century, too) to what we can hear sometimes in the recordings of Gigli, or David Devriès.

The feared C4 in Pollione's cavatina, in the repetition of 'sensi':

Meco all'altar di Venere
era Adalgisa in Roma,
cinta di bende candide,
sparsa di fior la chioma;
udia d'Imene i cantici,
vedea fumar gl'incensi,
eran rapiti i sensi
di voluttade e amor


Has been handled in different ways: just singing the C4, not singing the C4, produce the C4 in 'voluttade', because it' easier than giving the high note on the 'i',... All of them were approved by Bellini himself before his death.

I do prefer to go for the C4, but it's not something essential. It's more important to be able to read into the score and the character. Carlo Bergonzi never sang the C4, but was a great Pollione.
 

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I don't have much to add to the previous posts. The best all round Norma on CD for a beginner is the 1960 Callas/Corelli/Ludwig/Serafin. Callas gives a better performance (both vocally and from the point of view of expression) in the live 1955 La Scala recording (available from Divina Records or Myto, all other releases of this recording are in inferior sound) though.

For those who find it difficult to appreciate La Divina, the only two sopranos who have recorded the complete role with any success are Caballe and Sutherland. I have the Caballe/Domingo set (but only because it was included in the RCA box set where I was more interested in the recital albums) and the Sutherland/Pavarotti. Sutherland's first recording with Marilyn Horne is very well regarded, but I am not quite enough of a Sutherland fan to find it necessary in my collection.

DVD options are more problematic. As already noted, there's no complete audio-visual record of Callas in the role and Sutherland loses out by being captured with weak supporting casts, later on in her career and the visual aspect of opera performance was never her strong suit. Therefore we are left with Caballe at Orange.

I don't like the overwhelming majority of Norma DVDs as most of the sopranos give nowhere near a powerful enough performance to encompass the rather complex title role. There's just one that I think it is worth seeing, if not buying (although I have it on DVD) and that is the one from Macerata with Dimitra Theodossiou, Carlo Ventre and Daniela Barcelona. This would be my choice for first timers as the sound on the Orange film is rather unsatisfactory.

N.
 

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The feared C4 in Pollione's cavatina, in the repetition of 'sensi':
...
Has been handled in different ways: just singing the C4, not singing the C4, produce the C4 in 'voluttade', because it' easier than giving the high note on the 'i',...
Thank you, I finally understand, why they sometimes change the word order !

Do you have any insight, why so many tenors suffer at "la prima fiamma" in the initial recitative - dialogue with Flavio ? It is my private sadistic pleasure to go check that part, when new Norma turns up on youtube.
 

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For those who find it difficult to appreciate La Divina, the only two sopranos who have recorded the complete role with any success are Caballe and Sutherland.
N.
For sound only, I would add Leyla Gencer. I had a period of time, when I prefered her to Callas (later I switched back to Callas, though). Also, Bruno Prevedi as her Pollione has a beautiful dark voice, he actually started as a baritone.

For DVD, I am capable of being happy with several sopranos, actually. That is my blessing as an amateur, who does not know how exactly "nelle fiamme perrira" should sound, for instance. But there is always something else that irritates me at those DVDs. For instance the blind and thus vulneeable looking Pollione next to June Anderson.
 

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For one who is alive and well in today's round-up of talents, Sondra Radvanovsky fits the Norma bill like a glove.
It makes me uncomfortable to attempt to compare her with anyone who is dead.
Bellini would be proud.
 

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Thank you, I finally understand, why they sometimes change the word order !

Do you have any insight, why so many tenors suffer at "la prima fiamma" in the initial recitative - dialogue with Flavio ? It is my private sadistic pleasure to go check that part, when new Norma turns up on youtube.
Not sure what you mean by "suffer".

'Svanir le voci' is an accompanied recitative in G minor, that demand suppleness and expresiveness from the tenor singing Pollione, but technically it's not that difficult to manage. In fact, 'fiamma' must be sung exactly as 'spense'. There is a small jump between 'spen_ta' and the initial 'la', but nothing to write home about.

If you tell me one specific example, will share with you my impressions.
 

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Sutherland does a live video from Australia and she proves people wrong who say she can't act. She still sang well up in her late 50's in my opinion and she spits fire in the big trio. It is on Youtube. The other singers are fine and the camera work is very good. Yes Callas is better but we don't have her on video.
 

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I’d go for the second studio Callas, with Christa Ludwig and Franco Corelli on EMI/Warner. It’s in stereo, Callas is still in good voice and Ludwig never made a bad recording. On dvd, try to find that Caballé performance where she defeats the Provencal storm (i think it’s in mono only)
 

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Callas, del Monaco, Simionato / Votto (1955)
 
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Heard to its best advantage on Divina Records or from Pristine, this is my favourite of all the Callas Normas.
The Pristine disproves nominative determinism and the processing means that some details get lost (the audience reaction to 'Son io' isn't anywhere near as clear as on Divina). For those who want CDs and don't have the means to make their own CDRs the Myto release is just as good as the Divina (and was probably copied from it).

Divina:
Maria Callas - Norma (Milan, 7 December 1955) DVN-17 – Divina Records

Myto:
Vincenzo Bellini, Mario del Monaco, Maria Callas, Giulietta Simionato, Antonino Votto - Bellini: Norma - Amazon.com Music

These two releases come from a first generation copy of the original tape that was made by someone taping the performance from the radio broadcast. All other releases (as far as I am aware) use sources which are further from the original tape and the sound is murkier.

N.
 

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The Pristine disproves nominative determinism and the processing means that some details get lost (the audience reaction to 'Son io' isn't anywhere near as clear as on Divina). For those who want CDs and don't have the means to make their own CDRs the Myto release is just as good as the Divina (and was probably copied from it).

Divina:
Maria Callas - Norma (Milan, 7 December 1955) DVN-17 – Divina Records

Myto:
Vincenzo Bellini, Mario del Monaco, Maria Callas, Giulietta Simionato, Antonino Votto - Bellini: Norma - Amazon.com Music

These two releases come from a first generation copy of the original tape that was made by someone taping the performance from the radio broadcast. All other releases (as far as I am aware) use sources which are further from the original tape and the sound is murkier.

N.
The Pristine issue does erase some audience noise that is more interesting that the usual coughing etc. but at the same time brings a more natural warmth the voices. Still, for those who prefer a less interventionist approach go for MYTO or Divina.
 
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Sutherland does a live video from Australia and she proves people wrong who say she can't act. She still sang well up in her late 50's in my opinion and she spits fire in the big trio. It is on Youtube. The other singers are fine and the camera work is very good. Yes Callas is better but we don't have her on video.
There is another one from Canada on Vai , Tatiana Troyanos as Adalgisa. :love:
 
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