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Bellini: Norma / Yoncheva


Release Date: 11/17/2017 
Label:  Opus Arte   Catalog #: 1247  
Composer:  Vincenzo Bellini
Performer:  Sonia GanassiJoseph CallejaSonya YonchevaDavid Junghoon Kim,   ... 
Conductor:  Antonio Pappano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden OrchestraRoyal Opera House Covent Garden Chorus
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Star soprano Sonya Yoncheva sings the towering role of Bellini's Norma – a priestess torn between love and duty – in a timeless tale of love and betrayal, set in a fanatically religious and war-torn modern society. The spectacular production by Àlex Olle for The Royal Opera also stars Joseph Calleja as Norma's former lover Pollione, leader of the forces occupying her country, Brindley Sherratt as her domineering father Oroveso, and Sonia Ganassi as Adalgisa, her greatest friend and unwitting rival in love. Royal Opera Music Director Antonio Pappano leads this superb cast, the Royal Opera Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House in one of the greatest works of the bel canto repertory. Star soprano Sonya Yoncheva sings the towering role of Bellini's Norma – a priestess torn between love and duty – in a timeless tale of love and betrayal, set in a fanatically religious and war-torn modern society. The spectacular production by Àlex Olle for The Royal Opera also stars Joseph Calleja as Norma's former lover Pollione, leader of the forces occupying her country, Brindley Sherratt as her domineering father Oroveso, and Sonia Ganassi as Adalgisa, her greatest friend and unwitting rival in love. Royal Opera Music Director Antonio Pappano leads this superb cast, the Royal Opera Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House in one of the greatest works of the bel canto repertory. Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Norma by Vincenzo Bellini
Performer:  Sonia Ganassi (Mezzo Soprano), Joseph Calleja (Tenor), Sonya Yoncheva (Soprano),
David Junghoon Kim (Voice), Brindley Sherratt (Bass)
Conductor:  Antonio Pappano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra,  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1831; Italy 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Yoncheva's "Norma" a Mixed Bag December 23, 2017 By Art Music Lady See All My Reviews "None of the three principals, Yoncheva, Calleja or Ganassi, have cannon-sized voices, which is pretty much what we had singing Norma throughout most of the 20th century (Maria Callas’ modest-sized lyric voice being a rare exception). Unfortunately, we became so used to such Normas as Rosa Ponselle, Gina Cigna and Cristina Deutkeom, Polliones like Mario del Monaco, Robleto Merolla and Jon Vickers, and Adalgisas like Giulietta Simionato that people began to expect the big voices and the similarly huge orchestras that went with them. Now, I’m not averse to a really well-sung “big” Norma—one of my top recommendations in The Penguin’s Girlfriend’s Guide to Classical Music is the Deutekom-Troyanos-Merolla Norma from San Francisco in the 1970s—but once you’ve heard a smaller-scaled version like that of Cecilia Bartoli and Sumi Jo, the added intimacy of a small orchestra and voices makes a lot of sense. In this production, we have some strangeness in the costuming, concocted by some idiot named Lluc Castrells who I think should be Castrellated, such as Oroveso dressed like the Dean of a University and the male chorus looking like acolytes at Midnight Christmas Mass at your local church (and a few inexplicably dressed like Army Generals, go figure), and way too many Christian crosses representing the pagan Druids, but compared to the average run of productions nowadays it at least passes muster. The booklet touts this production as representing “A Norma trapped by society’s norms.” Some guy they picked out of a police lineup, Brindley Sherratt, sings Oroveso with a stifled, forced and quite ugly bass voice, but thankfully the opening scene is his biggest exposure and we can move on from there. Pollione and Flavio appear dressed in Ku Klux Klan robes and hoods, which they then remove to reveal modern-day business suits. Like I said, unrelated to what the opera is supposed to represent. Ah, but who cares nowadays? Obviously there are Hipsters out there who love this crap or they wouldn’t keep doing it. Calleja is in excellent voice, firm and brilliant, as is the secondary tenor, Kim, as Flavio. But you would have thought that Calleja could at least have shaved his scruffy face before appearing before a paid audience, wouldn’t you? I would. But he does sing superbly; his tone has darkened a bit over the years, and his breath control is nothing short of phenomenal. Del Monaco and Merolla could never sing the role this well; they were all muscle and stress. And Pappano’s conducting is simply fabulous, taut yet lyrical, even more exciting than Giovanni Antonini on the Bartoli set. Calleja’s high notes are so perfectly placed that they sound as if they’re right in the middle of his voice. I only wish he wasn’t just singing to the audience and outstretching his arms so much. But then Yoncheva begins singing, and acting, and all the folderol of this production falls away. This is a GREAT Norma voice, strong and bold, and interestingly she has a bit of Maria Callas’ smoldering sulfur sound in her timbre. And she is a great actress, her facial expressions matching her body language to perfection. Unfortunately, there’s too much motion on the stage just as “Casta diva” starts…Dancin’ Druids in the background, their arms outstretched and veils over their faces, who happily stop moving once the aria proper begins. Yoncheva never really achieves a real piano tone during the aria, though she does sing somewhat softly, but with phrasing and interpretation this good, who cares? She’s got the character down pat, as did Deutekom who was a LOUSY actress (physically, not vocally). Her sustained phrasing in “Bello a me ritorna” is absolutely mind-boggling, no joke. You have to hear it to believe it. And she sings variations in the second verse, simple, tasteful variations, with absolute ease. What’s more, it’s interesting to hear a Norma whose voice not only has all the requisite qualities for the role but who also sounds relatively youthful. Deutekom was great in 1975, but sounded mature. During the orchestral interlude following the cabaletta, Ganassi snuffs out the candles on stage, leaving us in total darkness. Maybe this lighting director was impressed by Herbert von Karajan. When she starts singing, one is underwhelmed to say the least. Her voice is all wobble and flutter; there is no central core to it. Oh God, I hope she warms up before her big scenes. PLEASE let her warm up! But at least she’s a good stage actress, which helps a little bit, though Calleja literally sings her off the stage in their ensuing duet (with a little light coming down from stage right over Calleja’s shoulder, through a group of Christian crosses). When Norma reappears, she’s dressed like an altar boy with rosary beads wrapped around her right hand. Pollione, on the other hand, just keeps going in his gray business suit. Ganassi never really warms up her flawed voice, but is a shade better by the time of the dramatic trio near the end of Act 1. Fortunately, the other two are so rock-solid that they mask her deficiencies. Act 2 begins with a modern-day apartment setting. Stark, square, stylized modern furniture, including a “bed” that I first thought was a space-aged sofa, a huge red exercise ball with a grinning cow face on it, a table lamp and a small plasma screen that moves somewhere at stage right. Who designed this scene? Is this Druid chic? Later on, while Norma sings with a huge knife in her hand, the picture on the screen changes to cartoon bunny rabbits and we see a boxed Monopoly game on the table behind her. Symbolism, folks, symbolism! In their long duet Yoncheva is superb, Ganassi close to awful. During the cabaletta to their duet, Norma is hugging one child close to her while another, oblivious that Mom and someone else are singing, is playing with blocks. Later, the same kid bounces on the exercise ball in rhythm with the music. The next scene has bodies and Christian crosses swathed in a dark blue light, with ten or twelve of them holding their arms up as if being crucified. Then they all start singing softly, even the crucified ones. Shades of Life of Brian! So there you have it. Yoncheva, Calleja and Pappano, all excellent. Sherratt crummy to start with, but he warms up a bit. Ganassi bad from start to finish, and the production quirky, overly busy and offensive to Christians. Stage lighting, In Darkness Let Me Dwell. I give it a B-. Better than most Normas out there on DVD, but caveat emptor. --Lynn Rene Bayley, The Art Music Lounge" Report Abuse
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