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On the question of Norma and Brunnhilde, not only did Lilli Lehmann once say she would rather sing all three Brunnhildes in one night, but Callas also stated that both Isolde and Brunnhilde were a piece of cake in comparison. Admittedly she only ever sang the Walkure Brunnhilde. No doubt also she forgot that when she was singing those roles her voice had reserves of power that she could only intermittently summon up after the weight loss. Her reasons for saying so were that high notes were few and far between, that neither Isolde nor Brunnhilde asked much for the kind of vocal dexterity and flexibility of Norma, that nowhere was the voice exposed as it is in Norma and that neither of Isolde nor Brunnhilde dominated the opera in quite the same way Norma does, who is hardly off the stage once she has made her entrance.

Nowadays, unfortunately too many ill-equipped sopranos try out the role, skating over its difficulties and ignoring its demands. I'd venture to suggest, though, that there have been far more great Isoldes and Brunnhildes than Normas since the operas were written.

When the opera was new there were Pasta and Malibran. Later Lilli Lehmann and Ponselle, and, in the modern age (ie complete performances preserved in sound) only Callas would seem to have truly embraced and conquered all aspects of this monumental role. Sutherland and Caballe were both appreciable Normas, and far and away better than anyone we will hear today, but I am not sure even they matched Callas's achievement in all aspects, that is both acting and singing.

So, yes, I still say Norma.
 

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Speaking of Italian operas:
Norma
Minnie
Turandot
I wouldn't call Turandot taxing if we are going from the point of view of the OP's statement. If a soprano has a stentorian voice with a good deal of volume and reliable top notes, she shouldn't have much difficulty singing it. Psychologically and from an acting point of view it doesn't really require too much of her. It certainly doesn't need the kind of finesse and vocal agility required to sing Mozart or bel canto. Nilsson sails through it with ease but is hard pressed on her recordings of Donna Anna, the voice being just too unwieldy.

Minnie asks more of the singer dramatically I think. She has to be sweet and strong, and vocally she needs a powerful upper register. My favourite Minnie on record is actually Carole Neblett, who has some of Nilsson's security on high, but also some of Tebaldi's lyricism. Still the role asks very little of her in terms of vocal dexterity.
 

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Lord Harewood knows a thing or two about singing.

Yet, when he was interviewing Callas, he mentioned that bel canto was "harder in some ways" than Wagner. Callas without pausing added, "in EVERY way."

I love a Wagnerian Hochdramatischer Sopran in her prime like Kirsten Flagstad, but I just don't see it in the cards that she'd have the agility to sing Norma the way Callas did in her prime.

Callas could sing Isolde compellingly but the reverse is not true with Flagstad being able to sing Norma.



In the two periods before and after the 1939-45 war, Norma acquired two great protagonists: Rosa Ponselle and Maria Callas, something I know from first-hand knowledge in the one case, and reliable hearsay and gramophone records in the other. With such exponents, Norma, above all Bellini's operas, flowers, gains in expressiveness and dramatic impact, and the music grows to full stature as it cannot when the performance is in lesser hands. Partly, this gain is general and the result of technical attainments, of superior, more penetrating imagination; partly it is particular and the product of an ability to colour and weight every phrase individually and leave nothing open to the risks of the automatic or the routine. But, whatever the reason, let no one imagine he has genuinely heard Norma without a truly great singer in the title role. Not to have one is as dire in its consequences as a performance of Gotterdammerung with an inadequate Brunnhilde. The trouble as far as Bellini is concerned is that, in the twentieth century, there have been fewer great Normas than fine Brunnhildes.

Lord Harewood writing in Kobbe in 1976. I would venture to suggest that what was true in the twentieth century is even more true in the twenty-first.
 

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Her "vacation" role :lol: (Turandot that is, not Donna Anna)

Esclarmonde anyone? lack of renown aside, there must be a reason that it hasn't been tackled very often?
It's quite hard admittedly. The opera's also a bit kitsch. That could be why it never quite caught on. :devil:
 
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