Bellini: Norma

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Bellini
LABELS: Sony
WORKS: Norma
PERFORMER: Renata Scotto, Tatiana Troyanos, Giuseppe Giacomini, Paul Plishka, Ann Murray, Paul CrookAmbrosian Opera Chorus, National PO/James Levine
CATALOGUE NO: SM2K 35902 ADD Reissue
When, in 1979, Renata Scotto undertook to record the title role in Norma, she had only recently begun to move from the lyric soprano repertoire to heavier dramatic parts such as Norma and the title role in Bellini’s La straniera. Norma suited her well. She makes the most of the big dramatic moments, sings ‘Casta diva’ quite beautifully, and its cabaletta excitingly, though the cabaletta is transposed down a tone. Her voice blends well in duet with that of the Adalgisa, an agreeably youthful-sounding Tatiana Troyanos. Giuseppe Giacomini is a sturdy Pollione, and Paul Plishka a mellifluous Oroveso. James Levine’s lively tempi keep the action moving inexorably to the opera’s tremendous finale.

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Riccardo Muti’s performance, recorded live at last year’s Ravenna Festival, is three minutes shorter than Levine’s, but takes up three discs to Levine’s two, with discs two and three giving very short measure. Jane Eaglen scored a huge success as Norma at Ravenna, but on these discs she is not in the same league as Scotto. Her voice frequently exhibits a heavy beat which I have not noticed to such an extent in the theatre, and her tone occasionally becomes squally. Eva Mei is an appealing Adalgisa, Kavrakos an acceptable Oroveso and, although his individual timbre may not be to all tastes, Vincenzo La Scola copes well with Pollione’s demanding vocal line. Muti conducts with discretion, his phrasing sensitively attuned to that of his singers. Charles Osborne