Notes and Editorial Reviews
Once we get the obvious out of the way--that from 1950 to 1964 (and arguably both before and since) Maria Callas was the greatest Norma available--we have at least a half-dozen of her performances to choose from. Two were recorded in the studio, there's another from London, one or two from Milan, and a couple of others (along with this 1955 performance) from Rome. Here she was in her vocal prime. The voice is in control at all volumes, and from blazing top to cruel/tragic low notes her coloratura is flawless, idiomatic, and always at the service of the music and text. And this security allows her to "read" the role with searing insights, offering us equal parts Norma the Woman and Norma the Warrior. In short, it's as nearly
perfect a performance of this role as we're ever going to hear. Her fury and hatred in her last-act confrontation with Pollione is as terrifying as her tenderness with her children is touching.
Partnering her is the somewhat brutal Mario del Monaco, who as usual makes up with vocal splendor what he lacks in nuance, and if the truth be known, he seems to try harder here to vary his approach than in most other recordings we have of his work. Ebe Stignani's Adalgisa is the best combination of girlishness and knowing; she partners Callas well. Giuseppe Modesti's Oroveso is properly booming. Tullio Serafin was a master of the score, and he brings both tautness and lyricism to it. The sound is good enough. This epic performance has been available on many labels (and still is); this is the only one I know of that is pitched properly--the others are sharp.
[5/10/2004] --Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Norma by Vincenzo Bellini
Ebe Stignani (Mezzo Soprano),
Athos Cesarini (Tenor),
Maria Callas (Soprano),
Rina Cavallari (Mezzo Soprano),
Mario Del Monaco (Tenor),
Giuseppe Modesti (Bass)
Rome Opera House Chorus,
Italian Radio Symphony Orchestra Rome
Written: 1831; Italy
Date of Recording: 06/29/1955
Venue: Live Rome, Italy
Length: 151 Minutes 44 Secs.
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