Where Netrebko shines is in the sheer beauty of her voice, her physical loveliness, her innate sense of where a phrase should go, absolute comfort on stage, and ability to express pathos . . . Her shading of the opening phrases is masterly, with portamento used expertly; later her mood swings seem spontaneous. Throughout the opera she has an inner glow and sweetness that helps to define this frequently confused character, and it is nowhere clearer than it is in this long scene…
This 1979 Norma features Renata Scotto in one of her very best recordings. She is in gorgeous vocal estate, with much exquisite pianissimo singing above the stave. Surprisingly, Scotto is one of the few native Italians to essay this most difficult bel canto role, and she brings an innate understanding of the text and music .
An important figure in the history of Romantic guitar music, Giulio Regondi was widely admired during his lifetime but unfairly neglected and forgotten for decades after his death. Most of the poetic, captivating works recorded here were rediscovered in the late 20th century and edited by eminent guitar scholar Simon Wynberg (who is also the author of the booklet notes for this disc).
The fourth Queen album released in the late 1975 has long been regarded as a classic. The brilliant mix of hard rock, pop, opera, music hall camp and traditional folk, utilising multi layered guitars, crunching riffs, vocal harmonies, piano flourishes, a harp, a ukulele and 'no synthesisers' all combine to make it one of the great albums of the last three decades. Their faultless musicianship, with the 'Sonic Volcano' rhythm section of Roger Taylor and John Deacon, Brian May's guitar virtuosity and the spectacular Freddie Mercury up front, led to Queen being crowned as one of the greatest rock acts of all time.
By 1981, when this production was taped for Canadian television, Joan Sutherland's voice was unquestionably past its prime. But even in its decline, that voice remained something quite special, and the role of the troubled Druid priestess Norma was one of her specialties. A substantial advantage in this recording is the presence at the podium of her husband and coach, Richard Bonynge, who had a deep understanding of the strengths and limitations of her voice and stage persona. His pacing and balance give the voice opportunities to challenge, at least momentarily, the ravages of time. Lotfi Mansouri, one of the great operatic entrepreneurs of the late 20th century, assembled a first-class supporting cast for Sutherland–most notably Tatiana Troyanos, to whose memory this video is dedicated. The performance of Troyanos in the role of the younger and equally troubled priestess Adalgisa is outstanding and would make this disc worth having even without its documentation of Sutherland. As far as it is possible to determine, this is the only video opera appearance of tenor Francisco Ortiz. On the basis of his performance as the Roman officer Pollione, he seems to have deserved more attention. Bass Justino Diaz gives a sterling performance as the old Druid Oroveso. (Joe McLellan)
In collaboration with Giovanni Antonini, Riccardo Minasi and Maurizio Biondi, Cecilia Bartoli restores the sound and spirit of Norma in a landmark Decca recording based on the opera’s original sources. Cecilia Bartoli leads a fabulous cast in Decca’s groundbreaking new recording, which presents Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma in a form that is complete with the exquisite mix of vocal and instrumental colours that Bellini intended for his ‘tragic opera’.
“If we weep from emotion on hearing it, it’s nothing to be ashamed of” Richard Wagner on Bellini’s most famous opera Norma, the most successful work by the last and greatest composer of bel canto. This new production of Norma, directed by Grammy Award-nominated opera, theatre and film director Kevin Newbury and starring Sondra Radvanovsky as a “powerful, elegant” Norma (New York Times) and Gregory Kunde as Pollione, is “something very special. The word ‘historic’ is used perhaps a little too often but tonight there really is no other adjective to describe the sensational performances offered to us by Sondra Radvanovsky and Gregory unde.” (operatraveller.com)