Headshot of La Cieca

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Normative

La Cieca is sort of out of words trying to describe what makes a great performance of the role of Norma, as opposed to the conscientious traversal of the notes that, curiously, seems to inspire such absurdly hyperbolic statements as “The role has been a magnet for many great sopranos—Ponselle, Milanov, Callas, Sutherland, to name a few—and after last night Radvanovksy can add her name to the list.”

Thus your doyenne now graciously offers an audio example of “greatness,” including ferocity of attack, nobility of fraseggio, crisp rhythm and expressive use of the text… following the jump.  

Norma (Vincenzo Bellini)
Norma: Leyla Gencer
Adalgisa: Giulietta Simionato
Pollione: Bruno Prevedi
Oroveso: Nicola Zaccaria
Clotilde: Luciana Piccolo
Flavio: Piero De Palma
Orchestra and Chorus of La Scala
Gianandrea Gavazzeni, conductor
Live performance, 13 January 1965

Act 1:

Act 2:

142 comments

  • uwsinnyc says:

    Wow that Bergonzi clip is indescribably beautiful. The way it all just flows out of him like honey. I’ve never had the luxury to see him live but I bet he was mesmerizing.

    On another note, are any of Angela Meade’s Normas going to be broadcast on WQXR/Sirius/MetPlayer?

  • uwsinnyc says:

    Also, I would like to see the MET cast a nice lighter lyric soprano as Adalgesa, to provide a younger-sister/protege foil to a fuller voiced Norma. The Adalgesas of late have either been dramatic mezzos or voiceless mezzos.

    I recall many years ago Ruth Ann Swenson saying she was interested in singing Adalgesa- that would have been a nice fit.

    • Sanford says:

      It’s interesting to note that on the recent Norma with Cecilia Bartoli the Adalgisa was none other than Sumi Jo.

      • Clita del Toro says:

        With the size of Bartoli’s voice, even on a recording, I wouldn’t expect them to use a Stignani, a Podles or a Zijack as Adalgisa. ! :)
        But I do like the idea of a lighter voice for Adalgisa.

  • Troppo Primavera says:

    Swenson has sung Adalgisa in a few far flung houses,once with Meade,and with great reviews,but she seems to have vanished from the scene.A pity.

    • mjmacmtenor says:

      She sang Adalgisa with Palm Beach Opera in 2009 with excellent notices. The second cast Adalgisa was Wendy Bryn Harmer who has been singer Wagner (Freia, etc.) at the Met and Seattle, but is also doing Rosalinda in Fledermaus with Houston. An interesting possibility for a soprano Adalgisa.

  • zinka says:

    Leyla was one of opera’s greatest..although th stupid Met never cared. I love Sondra more for gorgeous singing,and her new name for me is “Radiantovsky” although she ;lacks FIRE in “Ah non tremare o perfiodo” and “In mia man,” but so much of her singing..and a lot is NOT fiery (Casta Diva, Teneri Figli, last 10 minutes, duets with Adalgisa) was just so remarkable…..You cannot always have everything..

  • phoenix says:

    Interesting comments but I’m steering clear of the comparison -- I never cared very much for Bellini & I don’t usually care for Radvanovsky, either.
    - As far as Gencer goes, from a purely bravuraprojected standpoint, she was not a heavy hitter -- her soft warm but silky tones weren’t really suited to bombastic hard hitting attack (unless someone is a fan of the Olivero wretching technique) -- but if you are looking for sincerity of interpretation, Gencer was queen of all of them. But in her earlier years at War Memorial SFO when she was known primarily for the beauty of her voice I only saw her 3 times -- it was in my extreme youth -- but I do remember the larger voiced honkers who sang with her drawing a great deal more attention but less credibility.

    • scifisci says:

      I think you’re right about gencer and the sincerity of her singing versus SR. Listening to the end of the ’65 Norma, it defies improbability that singing with such over-the-top histrionics can be taken seriously but I for one cannot help but be moved by it. Perhaps it is that she does it all with such conviction and as you say, sincerity, that it works so well. Sondra, while having a lachrymose quality to her voice that lends itself well to things such as the finale of norma, seems to be unable to do what singers like gencer and callas were able to do--channel specific, direct emotions with their singing. Callas said in an interview that this is something her voice and technique allow, but I have a feeling that as others have said, Sondra’s voice and technique do not.

      • Camille says:

        Lachrymose, probably so.

        Pianto nella voce,I was thinking, but now your term seems more precise.

        I went; saw, and remained unconquered on Friday night. There were some good things, and as long as I didn’t look at the stage from my partially obscured seat, all was semi okay. Whatever alchemy she performed on opening night, was not repeated.

        Second act came around, and the disgruntled parterrian next to me (who didn’t EVEN clap for Casta Diva), abandoned his seat so I moved to the vision-enhanced seat. What a mistake! I’ll will never get the sight of Nice Girl Gone Wild with a Dagger out of my memory. More Norma Desmond than Norma, alas!

        Morris doing his re-cycled beaming at Brünnehilde at the end. Ridiculousness.
        Antonenko should be told to forego that optional C in his first act aria. Suono di Strangulated Capon. Otherwise, quite good in second act and believable as hunky centurion proconsole man. Poor Aldrich let a few nice phrases out in higher phrases. Why does she sing mezzo? Chorus sounded very good and ao did the orchestra. The sinfonia at the betinning had never sounded as well at the Met in my few and blighted Norma sightings.

        I won’t be back again until they get a new production. That probably means jamais se la vie, hélas.

  • -Ed. says:

    antikitschychick and armerjacquino, the previous page is full so I couldn’t follow up there. You both landed upon on what my friend Monty was trying to teach me. The woman Norma is more Tennessee Williams than Rodgers & Hammerstein, to put it another way.

    Last night I went alone to a local movie theater and saw a filmed Rigoletto (Teatro Antico, Taormina, from this past July) and spent the evening staring at the movie screen listening to Verdi, but remembering Monty. He always dismissed Verdi’s middle period as “nonsense” and he was none too crazy about his later works, either. I woke up this morning thinking about Monty. Norma was one of his favorite operas.

    • antikitschychick says:

      thanks for sharing that Ed…LOVE the Tennessee Williams analogy. It is RIGHT ON THE MONEY. I actually became very appreciative of TW after watching a recent film adaptation of The Loss of a Tear Drop Diamond with Bryce Dallas Howard in the role of Fisher Willow. She was superb. I absolutely loved her portrayal and I would actually like to see more adaptations of his plays.

      Its also a great idea for a production setting of this Opera imo.

  • MAXOMUCHACHO says:

    Very interesting, beautiful lyricism marred by “coups de glottes interminables.” It has a contrived melodramatic quality as a result, too self-consciously “I wanna be a sfogato too!” Go ahead Leyla, just turn on the foghorn and start singin’ “ay-oo-ga!” Me no likee.

  • Sanford says:

    I never delete albums from Google Play because I figure I’ll listen to them at least once and maybe more. But I got through Casta Diva and part of the cabaletta from Sondra’s Norma and deleted it. Antonenko sounds like he wandered in from Otello, and I was sadly disappointed by how flat SR was. She even had trouble matching pitch with the chorus.

  • oedipe says:

    Clara Polito: