|Cecilia Bartoli sings Norma with Sumi Jo as Adalgisa.|
I'd like to think the reason for that is Bellini's music... but, I have a sneaking suspicion that my love for Norma also stems from the fact that when, as a young apprentice, I covered the role of Oroveso ... Richard Bonynge was conducting in the pit.
Having the ability to observe him in rehearsal - as well as sing in the chorus with him in the pit - was one of those awe-inspiring, breath-taking times in ones life. One of those times when you can do nothing else but soak every second up like a sponge.
Two things I will never forget: The first was his advice "Don't sing so much. Never give 100%." Which, when put into context, meant: "Don't sing so big - don't sing so loud." The second thing I will never forget was his hard-bound orchestral score: it was dark red leather - almost blood red. And, it had his name embossed in gold at the bottom corner. I made a comment about it to a friend: "Oh god... the legendary performances that have come from that score..."
Maestro was within earshot, apparently. He turned and said, "Isn't it lovely? It was just re-bound in this leather. It was a gift from Joan."
That made me want to reach out and touch it... just to say I had.
I say this because Norma is my jam. And, there are so many superb pairings of Norma and Adalgisa: Callas and Stignani. Callas and Ludwig. Sutherland and Horne. Sutherland and Troyanos. Sutherland and Caballe. Caballe and Verrett. Sills and Verrett. Scotto and Troyanos. Scotto and Freni ... the list could go on and on.
Then, of course, there are the Normas coming to the MET next season: Radvanovsky and Aldrich. Meade and Barton.
Well, it was only a matter of time before mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli decided to put her stamp on Norma - yes, in the title-role. As part of the city’s annual Whitsun Festival, Norma will receive its first staging in Salzburg this May. Cecilia Bartoli, in her second year as artistic director of the Whitsun Festival, will perform the title-role in company with John Osborn, Michele Pertusi, Orchestra La Scintilla and Giovanni Antonini.
But, that's not all...
In Decca’s new recording, Norma is presented in a form that is complete with the exquisite mix of vocal and instrumental colors that Bellini allegedly intended for his ‘tragic opera’. Cecilia Bartoli’s Norma evokes the style and artistry of the legendary soprano Giuditta Pasta, the opera’s original heroine. The Italian superstar continues her mission to reveal lost details of expression and emotional variety in music covered by the dark varnish of later performance traditions. Norma, often portrayed as a superhuman priestess, emerges in Bartoli’s performance as a woman of flesh and blood, torn between duty and love. Bartoli's Adalgisa is Lyric Coloratura Sumi Jo - clearly cast as Bellini intended, which was to have Adalgisa portrayed by a soprano.
Rounding out the leads are John Osborn as Pollione and Michele Pertusi as Oroveso.
Decca’s studio recording of Norma employs the latest critical edition of Bellini’s score, painstakingly restored from manuscript and early printed sources. The sounds of period instruments from the composer’s time, brought to life by Orchestra La Scintilla and conductor Giovanni Antonini, underpin and blend with the timbres of a cast carefully chosen.
Norma is set to drop on June 11, 2013 - but, you can preorder Bartoli's Norma by clicking here.
Here are a couple of trailers to wet your appetite.