Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Prom 65: Alice Coote sings Handel

Disappointing staging mars Alice Coote’s vibrant if wayward musical performance

Santa Fe: Secondary Mozart in First Rate Staging

Impresario Boris Goldovsky famously referred to La finta giardiniera as The Phony Farmerette.

Regimented Daughter in Santa Fe

At Santa Fe Opera, Donizetti’s effervescent The Daughter of the Regiment can’t quite decide what it wants to be when it grows up.

Santa Fe’s Celebratory Jester

Santa Fe Opera noted a landmark two-thousandth performance in their distinguished history with a stylish new production of Rigoletto.

Sibelius Kullervo, BBC Proms, London

Why did Jean Sibelius suppress Kullervo (Op7, 1892)? There are many theories why he didn't allow it to be heard after its initial performance, though he referred to it fondly in private.

Aïda at Aspen

Most opera professionals, including the individuals who do the casting for major houses, despair of finding performers who can match historical standards of singing in operas such as Aïda. Yet a concert performance in Aspen gives a glimmer of hope. It was led by four younger singers who may be part of the future of Verdi singing in America and the world.

Prom 53: Shostakovich — Orango

One might have been forgiven for thinking that both biology and chronology had gone askew at the Royal Albert Hall yesterday evening.

Written on Skin at Lincoln Center

Three years ago I made what may have been my single worst decision in a half century of attending opera. I wasn’t paying close attention when some conference organizers in Aix-en-Provence offered me two tickets to the premiere of a new opera. I opted instead for what seemed like a sure thing: William Christie conducting some Charpentier.

Pesaro’s Rossini Festival 2015

The 36th Rossini Opera Festival in Rossini’s Pesaro! La gazza ladra (1817), La gazzetta (1816) and L'inganno felice (1812) — the little opera that made Rossini famous.

Santa Fe: Placid Princess of Judea

Unlike the brush fire in a distant neighborhood of the John Crosby Theatre, Santa Fe Opera’s Salome stubbornly failed to ignite.

Airy and Bucolic Glimmerglass Flute

As part of a concerted effort to incorporate local color and resonance into its annual festival, Glimmerglass has re-imagined The Magic Flute in a transformative woodland setting.

Glimmerglass Conquers Cato

Bravura singing and vibrant instrumental playing were on ample display in Glimmerglass Festival’s riveting Cato in Utica.

Energetic Glimmerglass Candide

Bernstein’s Candide seems to have more performance versions than Tales of Hoffmann.

Die Eroberung von Mexico in Salzburg

That’s The Conquest of Mexico, an historical music drama composed in 1991 by German composer Wolfgang Rihm (b. 1952). But wait. Wolfgang Rihm construed a few sentences of Artaud’s La Conquête du Mexique (1932) mixed up with bits of Aztec chant and bits of poem(s) by Mexico’s Octavio Paz (d. 1998) to make a libretto.

Scottish Sensation at Glimmerglass

Glimmerglass is celebrating its 40th Festival season with a stylish new production of Verdi’s Macbeth.

Norma in Salzburg

This Salzburg Norma is not new news. This superb production was first seen at the Salzburg Festival’s springtime Whitsun Festival in 2013 with this same cast. It will now travel to a few major European cities.

The power of music: a young cast in a semi-stage account of Monteverdi’s first opera

John Eliot Gardiner conducted a much anticipated performance of Monteverdi’s first opera L’Orfeo at the BBC Proms on 4 August 2015, with his own Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists.

Cold Mountain Wows Audience at Santa Fe World Premiere

On August 1, 2015, Santa Fe Opera presented the world premiere of Cold Mountain, a brand new opera composed by Pulizer Prize and Grammy winner Jennifer Higdon.

Review: You Promised Me Everything

Richard Taruskin entitled his 1988 polemical critique of the notion of ‘authenticity’ in the context of historically informed performance, ‘The Pastness of the Present and the Presence of the Past’.

Manon Lescaut, Munich

Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich. Some will scream in rage but in its austerity it reaches to the heart of the opera.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Vincenzo Bellini: Norma
17 Aug 2009

Bellini: Norma

"An all-American Norma," Roger Pines calls this release in his entertaining booklet essay.

Vincenzo Bellini: Norma

Beverly Sills; Shirley Verrett; Enrico di Giuseppe; Paul Plishka. John Alldis Choir. New Philharmonia Orchestra. James Levine, conducting.

Deutsche Grammophon 00289 477 8186 [2CDs]

$18.97  Click to buy

It might even seem to be the Metropolitan Opera Norma, with James Levine conducting and Beverly Sills, Shirley Verrett, and Paul Plishka singing (tenor Enrico Di Giuseppe, born in Philadelphia, was more of a New York City Opera performer who, like Sills, also made Met appearances). However, the orchestra is the New Philharmonia, with the John Alldis Choir, and the 1973 recording dates took place in the UK. Bellini’s masterpiece can be found, unsurprisingly, in recordings with more idiomatic conviction, but for Sills’s fans, the rewards here trump any other concerns.

Sills’s characterization of the Druid priestess remains consistent right from the amazing opening scene until she joins hands with her erstwhile Roman lover Pollione and strolls into the flames. This Norma is a woman first, feminine and vulnerable behind her rage at her betrayal by Pollione. Sills does not possess the tragic grandeur of Callas, or rival Caballé for tonal beauty, or contend with Sutherland’s opulent sound (though Sills certainly has the chops for the role’s more athletic passages). To someone such as your reviewer with more respect than admiration for Sills, her Norma begins to feel underdeveloped as the opera reaches its climax - the finale is not the knock-out it should be. For her fans, however, the response will probably be very different.

Shirley Verrett’s Adalgisa does prompt both awed respect and admiration. She simply sounds gorgeous, and that makes her a formidable rival both as performer and as character. Unfortunately, both women seem to have fallen for the weak Roman tea of Enrico Di Giuseppe. Initially his lighter tone makes a pleasant impression, but the voice refuses to grow into masculine authority, and that surely drains a lot of energy from the drama. It may be an unrewarding role, but think how much Caballé gains in the famous Orange video from having Jon Vickers opposite her. Plishka’s Oroveso is competent, not much more.

The opening Sinfonia gets an aggressive treatment from Levine, with pounding fortissimos. He seems to be bullying the score, so that the martial music becomes overbearing, while the more lyrical passages provide little respite. The sound balances the orchestra and voices fairly well, with the odd result that they seem to be separate aural locations, and thus unblended.

Apparently the many fans of the soprano have anxiously awaited this first release in the CD format. They’ll be pleased, and indeed, anyone just looking for a good Norma probably won’t be disappointed. Unless, that is, later on they hear the Callas, or Caballé, or Sutherland….

Chris Mullins

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):