Norma: The real thing

Joan Sutherland and Marilyn Horne sing “Mira, o Norma” from Bellini’s Norma in 1970 television performance.

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  • The real thing is Callas with Simionato, Stignani or Ludwig – and even with Cossotto in her later performances. Otherwise, Caballe and Cossotto are also great. I also prefer to your choice Bartoli and Olivera which I have heard live in Salzburg.

    • I agree as the only real NORMA was Callas though Caballe did very well also.
      I disagree with Bartoli whose Norma is a joke, Salzburg was horrible and only there she could be successful….never ever at la Scala or Vienna where people know about music…..sorry but she was a total miscast.

      • I agree that Bartoli couldn’t sing Norma in a big theatre. Her voice is too small for that. But I enjoyed very much the first time she sang the part in Salzburg’s smaller hall, a few years ago and before the voice has started to decline. It was perhaps not the real thing but it was different and interesting.

        • I agree with you and it was an interesting venture but one needs to like the style of her singing or – better expression used here before – yodeling
          I found it a real pain like her Maria in West Side Story but it’s her festival there and she brings her fans together – again nowhere in Italy or at places with more connoisseurs she would succeed!!!

  • I was at the Met that night and thought along with the rest this is it !!!!!!! even with
    the dreadful yodeller Sutherland. Years went by then came Ewa Podles who put
    them all to shame . Callas , Sutherland , Horne, Caballe,Bartoli, all noted for this
    or that but none in the class of Podles . The real thing if there ever was .

      • I am not the greatest fan of Joan Sutherland but you only need to listen to her in Rossini’s Semiramide to understand how wrong this description is. Such accomplished, indeed dazzling singing in “Bel raggio lusinghier”: an object lesson in effortless coloratura. Not many successors can sing with such ease and go up into the stratosphere as if it were chld’s play.

        • Addendum: the Semiramide recordings to which I refer are those by DECCA, a recital disc in the early 1960s and the famous recording with Marilyn Horne.

          • Calling Joan Sutherland names does not really merit a serious response, but since some listening suggestions have been made, may I add “I Puritani” to that list, with the truly amazing cast of Sutherland, Pavarotti, Cappuccilli and Ghiaurov, Bonynge conducting. it does not get better than the duet Sutherland/Ghiaurov.

  • Might one suggest it is an object lesson in what you consider as effortless singing.
    Yodeling to many is an art form .

    • Perhaps you can illustrate with information about two recordings: one of a yodler and one of Sutherland in her prime sounding like that yodler.

    • And John Steane – who knew a thing or two about singers – has this to say of Sutherland even in her early years: “Here was this not so very celebrated girl singing with such assured virtuosity that it was hard to imagine Tetrazzini herself doing better”. Effortless singing indeed.

  • I could never understand a single word when Sutherland was singing and I never regarded her as a ‘performer’ in the sense that she inhabited a role. She always seemed the same to me.

    • Yes indeed, Sue. I heard Sutherland in person at the SF Opera, in “Esclarmonde”. Although accurate in pitch, and I assume, the notes, one couldn’t hear ANY articulation of the words. ZERO. It was all merely vocalization exercises. And she displayed the same unvarying tone (it has been accurately described elsewhere as “droopy”) throughout. Any attempt at acting? Forget it.
      As to the listening suggestions given by Bluepumpkin and Hugopreuss, may I suggest that studio recordings do not necessarily reflect the reality of what the performer is actually doing from minute-to-minute. And they haven’t done since magnetic tape – with its ability to be cut and spliced – came along.

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