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Bellini: Norma / Tullio Serafin, Maria Callas, Et Al

Release Date: 11/17/2009 
Label:  Warner Classics   Catalog #: 66709   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Vincenzo Bellini
Performer:  Franco CorelliPiero de PalmaChrista LudwigEdda Vincenzi,   ... 
Conductor:  Tullio Serafin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Milan Teatro alla Scala OrchestraMilan Teatro alla Scala Chorus
Number of Discs: 3 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

"There were several good reasons for making a second recording of Callas's Norma only six years after her first. Recording itself had improved notably in that time but Callas's voice had deteriorated and could not wait much longer. More important, the great solo performance in that earlier version (HMV C)SLS5115, 11/54 and 5/78) had not been part of a satisfying performance of the opera as a whole. Most deficient had been the tenor and bass, more important than their limited opportunities might suggest. The woolly tones of Nicola Rossi-Lemeni were replaced by Nicola Zaccaria's resonant, welldefined and authoritative Oroveso, and Mario Filippeschi's Pollione, distinguished solely by a loud and long top C, gave way to the ringing and Read more sometimes almost stylish singing of Franco Corelli. Adalgisa had been sung in the 1954 set by Ebe Stignani, whose middle range was still of surpassing beauty though she was no longer able to do full justice to the role; Christa Ludwig in the second version brought an ample range, a considerable beauty and body of tone, and a sympathetic, intelligent approach. With this cast Callas's Norma could be heard in a worthy setting; and there was Serafin, as before, to help with his long-accumulated knowledge of the ways of such operas as this, so that with his feeling for rubato and his care (for instance) to make the orchestra play pianissimo at Callas's entry, the famous "Mira, o Norma" could work its magic very much as it had done in the old Ponselle/Telva recording made in January 1929 (Italian RCA mono TVM1 7202). The new stereo techniques, moreover, gave space and clarity where previously the sound had been relatively stodgy. So if Norma with Callas is what is wanted then the choice is simple: this is it. But what if the requirement is Callas's Norma? That is a different proposition and the decision less certain. Some critics detect a deepening in Callas's understanding of the role. I cannot profess to have directly compared every phrase, but certainly when I have gone from one recording to the other to compare a phrase or a passage (and it has been often both now and hitherto) what I have been struck by is the consistency, as far as interpretation and style are concerned. Sometimes the portrayal is a degree more vivid in the earlier version, but then the singer is closer: we hear more sharply the intake of breath and so forth. At least the deliniation is never thickened, the points are never overemphasized in the later recording: Callas had it in common with Fischer-Dieskau that the learning, feeling, expressing, 'interpreting', worked into the system and became ever less deliberately underlined."

-- J.B.S., Gramophone [6/1980]
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Works on This Recording

Norma by Vincenzo Bellini
Performer:  Franco Corelli (Tenor), Piero de Palma (Tenor), Christa Ludwig (Mezzo Soprano),
Edda Vincenzi (Soprano), Nicola Zaccaria (Bass), Maria Callas (Soprano)
Conductor:  Tullio Serafin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Milan Teatro alla Scala Orchestra,  Milan Teatro alla Scala Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1831; Italy 
Date of Recording: 09/1960 
Venue:  La Scala Theater, Milan, Italy 

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