Bellini: Norma - Cecilia Bartoli, Sumi Jo

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Product Details

Title:
Norma
Composer:
Bellini
Artist:
Cecilia Bartoli, Sumi Jo, Orchestra La Scintilla, Giovanni Antonini
Label:
Decca
Format:
2 CD
Online Price:
$49.99

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Catalogue Number: 4783517


Product Description

Cecilia Bartoli Norma
Sumi Jo
Adalgisa
John Osborn
Pollione
Michele Pertusi
Oroveso
Liliana Nikiteanu
Clotilde
Reinaldo Macias
Flavio

Orchestra La Scintilla, International Chamber Vocalists
Giovanni Antonini

Cecilia Bartoli presents Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma like you have never heard it before – a new complete studio recording of one of the most iconic operas in music history, in its original form.

For generations Bellini’s Norma has been looked at from the vantage point of the Verismo era at the beginning of the twentieth century. Now Cecilia Bartoli unveils the opera’s original pre-Romantic style and colour by taking Norma back to its roots. For the first time ever the entire music is recorded with period instruments from Bellini’s time. Traditional cuts are reinstated. Keys and tonalities are put back into place and the music is executed according to Bellini’s own tempo indications. A new critical music edition was compiled from the autograph score and many manuscript sources.

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Reviews:

The Times

24th May 2013

****

“Wonderfully acrobatic, Bartoli’s warm voice is neatly complemented by the silver-streaked Adalgisa of the South Korean Sumi Jo...Osborn’s evenly flowing tenor makes Pollione a plausible babe magnet, even to Druids...Rustic winds, resinous strings, tart brass and shivering percussion all add dramatic colouring to Bellini’s magnificent music...Pin back your ears and enjoy.”

The Independent

1st June 2013

“The timbres of Orchestra La Scintilla are enchanting, the chorus robust, the whole admirably paced by conductor Giovanni Antonini.”

The Guardian

13th June 2013

***

“Its principal revelations lie in the orchestral sound, stark and abrasive rather than comfortingly smooth, Giovanni Antonini's urgent conducting, and, above all, in Jo's immensely touching depiction of ruined innocence”

Gramophone Magazine

July 2013

“Bartoli floats soprano-range notes but with a mezzo timbre that suits the priestess Norma's age...under Antonini's volatile direction the lean penetrating sonority of the orchestra makes a good case for the score's big effects...All too rarely, though, does Bartoli spin a lyric line with simple expressiveness...But Bartoli is the best current Norma out there.”

International Record Review

July/August 2013

“Despite using period instruments, the orchestra never sounds undernourished...Bartoli is, most assuredly, Bartoli, and if you are allergic to her in general, you will remain so...Yet you will hear things in her performance that will illuminate aspects of the character as never before...it is a pleasure to hear [the opera] stripped and clear.”

BBC Music Magazine

August 2013

***

“The result [of a mezzo Norma] is creditable and often expressive, but artistically compromised...while from a purely vocal point of view it sometimes sounds a struggle. Sumi Jo has greater success with Adalgisa, her light, fluttery soprano nicely matching the innocence of Norma's rival...chorus and period-instrument orchestra are excellent.”

MusicWeb International

25th July 2013

“Think you know Norma? Think again...It is, in fact, the orchestra who are the biggest surprise - and in many ways the biggest asset - of the recording. ...Bartoli herself is never less than commanding in the title role...However, I was never entirely convinced that she was seeing the role from the inside...Sumi Jo, however, is a delightful Adalgisa.”

Opera Britannia

24th May 2013

“it redefines the work both in terms of sound and in appropriate casting...At the end of [her first] scene I was already convinced that Bartoli could convince as Norma on her own terms both on CD and, given the right collaborators, in the theatre...[Jo] is probably the most convincing Adalgisa of my recent experience....essential listening for any lover of bel canto.”

Presto Classical

Katherine Cooper

20th May 2013

“[Bartoli] sings Norma entirely on her own terms, without pushing her instrument to emulate any of her illustrious predecessors, and whilst listening I simply couldn’t imagine the role sung in any other way...If you don’t already have this opera on disc, this is entirely compelling on its own terms; if you already own one of the older sets, it makes for a fascinating contrast.”

 

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Product Reviews

  1. If you don’t already have this opera on disc, this is entirely compelling on its own terms; if you already own one of the older sets, it makes for a fascinating contrast.

    Posted by Katherine Cooper - Presto Classical on 23rd May 2013

    When I heard whispers last year that Cecilia Bartoli was recording the title-role of a major opera, I’ll confess that Bellini’s self-immolating Druid priestess wasn’t the first thing that sprang to mind: the Italian mezzo has spent the past half-decade unearthing forgotten baroque repertoire, so I’d expected something eighteenth-century (Handel’s Cleopatra, perhaps?), or a world première recording, rather than one of the greatest of all bel canto operas. There’s also the small matter of voice-type: Bartoli’s dark, small, astonishingly flexible voice defies conventional vocal categories, but like most people I’d always thought of Norma as a true soprano role, and a reasonably dramatic one at that (it’s often been associated with singers who specialise in Puccini, Verdi, or even Wagner rather than Bartoli's Handel and Vivaldi).

    Well, I stand corrected on both counts: this new recording is the product of as much research as any of Bartoli’s recent baroque excavations, as she and conductor Giovanni Antonini have gone back to the original manuscripts and accounts of the very first performance in order to present a version of the opera as close as possible to what Bellini would have heard in 1831, rather than viewing the score as a precursor to verismo and the high-cholesterol operas of the later nineteenth century. There are a few textual differences from the ‘standard’ version of the score – original modulations are restored, meaning that some sections take place in a slightly lower key – but the most significant feature of this new, period-instrument Norma is the vocal casting. Like Bartoli, the original Norma was a mezzo with a strong upper register rather than a true soprano, whilst the role of Adalgisa (the young acolyte who unwittingly steals the heart of Norma's Roman lover) was taken by a light soprano rather than a mezzo as is often the case today. Replicating this original balance, Antonini has cast the Korean coloratura Sumi Jo (known for stratospheric roles like the Queen of the Night) as Norma’s rival, whilst the celebrated Rossini tenor John Osborn is Pollione, the man who loves them both.

    So, how does it all work? Quite beautifully. I’d forgotten what a compelling vocal actress Bartoli can be and what a keen sense of dramatic pacing she possesses (she hasn't recorded a complete role on CD since 2008). She sings Norma entirely on her own terms, without pushing her instrument to emulate any of her illustrious predecessors, and whilst listening I simply couldn’t imagine the role sung in any other way. Certainly she doesn’t open up at the top as thrillingly as a singer like Montserrat Caballé, but she works the text with mesmerising clarity, and her characteristic quick vibrato (not to all tastes, I know) flags up the character’s neurotic intensity rather than her stoical grandeur. It took me a minute to adjust to the blend of voices in the long duet with Adalgisa simply because it’s so unusual to hear the darker voice on top, but she never overwhelms her lighter-voiced colleague and for once Adalgisa truly sounds like the young, innocent foil to Norma’s volatility. Osborn is splendid, too: again, his voice is far slimmer than many Polliones on disc (both Pavarotti and Domingo sang the role at one time) but he has plenty of heroic ‘ring’ when needed, as well as the tonal glamour to be a believable love-object.

    If you don’t already have this opera on disc, this is entirely compelling on its own terms; if you already own one of the older sets, it makes for a fascinating contrast.



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