Bellini: Norma

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

LABELS: Hardy Classic Video
WORKS: Norma
PERFORMER: Montserrat Caballé, Jon Vickers, Josephine Veasey; Turin Teatro Regio Chorus & Orchestra/Giuseppe Patané; dir. Sandro Sequi (Orange Festival, 1974)
CATALOGUE NO: HCD 4003 (distr. Codaex)
The technical limitations of this DVD are that the picture quality is only so-so, with some wayward camerawork and erratic editing. The lighting is terrible, and features of the design of this open-air amphitheatre production are quite ludicrous – the chorus of Druids resembles a tribe of Bedouins that has strayed in from your local amateur operatic society’s Desert Song.


But forget all that, because it contains two very good and two quite simply great performances in the principal roles. At her best, Montserrat Caballé was superb, and this 1974 Norma is at a level that reaffirms her reputation as the leading post-Callas priestess. She’s partnered as Pollione by one of opera’s great singing actors, Jon Vickers. Usually the tenor role pales into insignificance before the furious onslaught of a diva aided by the mezzo: not here. His conception of the role and its execution are tremendous.


As Adalgisa, Josephine Veasey fully earns her place in such august company, and bass Agostino Ferrin’s Oroveso is never less than imposing. Conductor Giuseppe Patané has a good grasp of the score, and if one ignores the production’s more windswept moments, it’s obvious that director Sandro Sequi broadly knows what he’s doing. Other recent accounts with Sutherland (Arthaus) and June Anderson (TDK, reviewed last month) may look better, but they have nothing of the intensity of this one. The booklet contains a worthwhile article on Caballé’s interpretation of this greatest of Italian soprano roles, but that’s about it. George Hall