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By Vincenzo Bellini

VIDEO: Monserrat Caballe, Jon Vickers videotape from 1974; sumptuously filmed at the Theatre Antique d'Orange; Japanese subtitles; DMVB 29 [G.R.]

AUDIO: A) LEGATO or HRE or MELODRAM [also GALA, but see below]: Maria Callas, Mario Del Monaco, Giulietta Simionato, Antonino Votto conducting; "live" performance at La Scala, Dec. 7, 1955; Mono

(RED ALERT!!! There are several Callas / Del Monaco Normas; there are several Callas / Simionato Normas; there are several Callas / Votto Normas; there are several Callas "live" performance Normas; there are several Callas / La Scala Normas; there are several Callas / 1955 Normas! Make sure you acquire this specific Callas performance comprising all six attributes! The one thing favoring easy purchase is its availability on four different labels. It's worth the trouble. It may just be the finest evening of her career!! Del Monaco, too, is surprisingly mellow in some of the love music. AVOID the GALA pressing if you want this performance unedited -- snippets from other Callas performances have been spliced in where the [fairly rare] static gets too uncomfortable for the overskittish GALA engineers!!! Unfortunately, one such moment, and a critical one, is the heart of the Callas portrayal: Norma's "Dormono entrambi" sung quietly over her sleeping children. Here, some may prefer GALA's substitution of another Callas rendition in better sound, while others may regret the loss of Callas's most poignant singing that evening.) [G.R.]

B) FONIT-CETRA: Gina Cigna, Giovanni Breviario, Ebe Stignani, Gui conducting (recorded 1937); a pupil of Emma Calve, Cigna is the only Norma on disk who is a direct inheritor of the original Marchesi-Garcia tradition traceable back to Bellini's own day; her fine dramatic interpretation and dark vocal persona certainly reflect this heritage in a compelling and impassioned reading -- however modest her facility in coloratura may be; Stignani is a more than worthy colleague; the real problem here is Breviario, whose Pollione does not hold a candle to Del Monaco's on A; Mono [G.R.]

C) DECCA/LONDON: Joan Sutherland, John Alexander, Marilyn Horne, Bonynge conducting (1960s); the only recording comprising a) absolutely no cuts, b) everything sung in the original keys throughout, c) all three principals in optimum voice and accomplished bel canto specialists at that, and d) excellent sonics; despite these assets, not so exciting a performance as either A or B; Stereo [G.R.]

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This Page Last Revised 8/13/99 | Copyright © 1997 by Geoffrey Riggs
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