Bellini’s Norma contains one of the most impressive and also most difficult soprano roles in the whole repertoire of opera. Few sopranos can do justice to it. The first of those who have must surely be Maria Callas, considered the outstanding interpreter of the title part. The role, along with Bellini"s opera, was interpreted in a revolutionary fashion by Joan Sutherland (born in Sydney 1926). She is the protagonist in the present recording made at the Sydney Opera House in August 1978. "La Stupenda", as Joan Sutherland was known in musical circles, ended her international career in 1990. The celebrated production by Sandro Sequi, with Fiorella Mariani"s lavish décor and costumes, concentrates entirely on the human destiny of a woman on the edge of her existence. He intelligently brings forth the priestess’ emotional world, hence showing the many facets of Norma"s character. The whole drama of events on the stage is reflected in the orchestra pit, and musical director Richard Bonynge demonstrates once again his competence for great musical theatre.
The Metropolitan Opera performance of Lucia Di Lammermoor features Joan Sutherland in a triumphant return to the Met after a four year absence. Dame Joan gives a performance of astounding facility and musical sensitivity. Gaetano Donizetti's tragic masterpiece is based on Sir Walter Scott's novel, The Bride of Lammermoor, a brooding tale of love, murder, and vengeance set in seventeenth-century Scotland. Taped live in its entirety on November 13, 1982.
Hardly any other singer of our time has had such an uninterrupted and brilliant career as the Australian soprano, Joan Sutherland. Already described as ‘La Stupenda’, the ‘Koloraturwunder’' or ‘The Incomparable’, she can look back on a career stretching over more than forty years which was soundly based and intelligently developed. Sutherland has been on the stage since 1947. Her European career began in London in 1952 and in 1959 the producers at DECCA became aware of the new vocal miracle and entered into an exclusive contract with Joan Sutherland. Since that time her regular recordings have captured all the important stages of her career…
I believe this is the only note-complete performance of this opera, and furthermore, the only one that is sung in all of the original keys (in almost every other recording "Casta diva" and the duets are transposed down). It is a spectacular example of bel canto. Recorded in 1964, Joan Sutherland was at her peak, exhibiting fearless, beautiful singing, thoroughly accurate in fiorature and breath control, and, for Sutherland, dramatically telling. Her usually dreadful diction is somewhat better than elsewhere, and she presents Norma's unhappiness and acceptance of her fate honestly. She's not as good when she must express anger, but she tries very hard, and in the face of such gorgeous singing, one barely minds. Of course she never comes near Callas in psychological depth, but why bother bringing that up? –Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com.
Lucia di Lammermoor catapulted Joan Sutherland to international fame in 1959. It is a role with which her name is now inextricably linked and one which provides a perfect showcase for her remarkable vocal agility and acting ability. Set in the misty moors of Scotland, Lucia di Lammermoor is based on the novel by Sir Walter Scott. It is a tragic tale of star-crossed lovers separated by a family feud. In Gaetano Donizetti's dark, romantic opera, the forces of hate tear the young couple apart, leading to madness and murder. Richard Greager, Malcolm Donnelly, Joan Sutherland. Directed by John Copley, conducted by Richard Bonynge.
Joan Sutherland was at the height of her career when she took on the role of Leonora – arguably the most dramatic of all Verdi heroines – in 1983. Elijah Moshinsky’s production, in which he was ably supported by the Australian artist Sidney Nolans (set design), Luciana Arrighi (costumes) and Nick Chelton (lighting), was tailor-made for Sutherland, allowing Leonora to develop into a truly tragic heroine occupying the opera’s central ground. This performance at the Australian Opera, Sydney – and featuring a high quality cast under the baton of Richard Bonynge – was recorded by Australian Television on 2nd July 1983. Verdi’s powerful and passionate opera tells a tale of civil war and treachery.