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Subject: VASTLY DIFFERENT CRITICAL OPINIONS
From: Les Mitnick <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Les Mitnick <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Tue, 31 Jan 2017 01:25:32 -0500
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I am going to try to weigh in on this.  It's only my feelings being
expressed, and I speak for no one else.  When it comes to professional
critical opinions, I read very carefully, usually accept the opinion (most
of the time) and move on.  We all are actually our own critics.  What
reaches US individually is highly personal.  
     With a role like Norma, there is far too much for everyone to agree on.
 For me, Callas remains the ultimate Norma (on her live recordings, both of
her studio recordings --------- even though on the second her vocal
imperfections are easy to discern).  On the 1960 studio recording, even
given the condition of her voice, she moves me like no other Norma.  She's
commanding, has tremendous authority, and puts her stamp on the role as no
one else has.  Given that, I find that despite some flawless singing,
outstanding duet work with Marilyn Horne, etc, that Joan Sutherland was
never a real Norma.  She lacked the authority and venom that must be present
in the role.  Too many phrases went for nothing.  I think that Caballe came
much closer to the ideal.  The role was way beyond Scotto, but she did her
best (which wasn't enough).  I won't go into Elena Suliotis, whom I heard in
Chicago.  At age 25, with a Callas-like voice, she failed terribly, in
thought.  June Anderson tried Norma in Chicago in 1997, and it was at best
an honorable attempt but still a noble failure.
     Sondra Radvanovsky is most emphatically a beautiful and real Norma,
though I'm sure many will disagree.  No, she can't dip her voice in venom
like Callas could, but she sings with authority and with conviction.  I am
unaware of any other Norma today who could touch her.  But this is only a
reflection of what moves and thrills ME.  I love the opera, and I find the
Norma situation made even more difficult by the "new approach" by Cecilia
Bartoli, whom I feel has some really beautiful moments.  In fact, the whole
performance is different from all the others, and it did take me several
plays to appreciate it.  There's room for her interpretation also.  I've
said this before, but I'll say it again:  I find it amazing that the critics
praised it (for the most part) but opera lovers disdained it.  Perhaps many
have changed their minds.
     The crux of my point is that there are so many different ways to
approach this very complex and difficult role that anyone who undertakes it
is going to face some controversy, which is healthy.  I listen mostly to
Callas, Caballe, Bartoli, and now Radvanovsky.  I find Sutherland's efforts
to be technically admirable, but for me she's bloodless, and not really
suited for this opera.  The emotional depths of the role are not hers to give.  
     So there is no right or wrong.  People gravitate to what they like to
hear in a Norma.  I find Radvanovsky today just about "as good it it gets" .
 I'm glad she waited so long to undertake the role and hope oher Norma
deepens andrefines itself even further in the coming seasons.  I wonder what
Anna Netrebko will one day make of this opera (if she ever besides to
perform it.)























    

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