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Subject: Re: 1st act of Norma in HD
From: Donald Levine <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Donald Levine <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sat, 7 Oct 2017 17:37:05 -0700

text/plain (137 lines)

So here is my take.   I heard the HD transmission in Mesa, AZ.  Having been
at the 2nd performance last week at the Met, I've now heard Sondra
Radvanovsky's Norma five times.  When I first heard it at the Met last go
round, I came away totally convinced.  I was never a fan of hers but
gradually over the years, beginning with her first Norma at the Met and
through the three Queens, I have grown to admire and love her as a singer
and artist.  My first Norma was Joan Sutherland in 1970 with Marilyn Horne,
Carlo Bergonzi and Cesare Siepi.  I heard Caballe many times, Verrrett,
Hunter, Scotto, Vaness, just about every major soprano who had done the
role in the last 47 years.  Quite simply, Sondra Radvanovsky, for me is the
best of them all.  Yes, Sutherland overall sang better (as her best, a
force of nature, she remains in a class of her own) but this is the best
combination of superb singing, musicianship and dramatic performance of
this role that I have heard live.  She is a direct descendant of Maria
Callas with a better equalized voice and superior, steady top notes. Her
piano singing is exquisitely done.  I found nothing in her performances of
Norma that I can quibble about - it would be just looking for things to
pick at.  As a totality, her Norma is a magnificent assumption.

As for the rest of the cast, I am a big fan of Joyce Di Donato but as
Adalgisa, I preferred Horne, Cossotto and Shirley Verrett who was a
magnificent Adalgisa and Norma.  For such a lyric voice, Di Donato seems to
have a short top and of course, vocally its a few sizes smaller than
Radvanovsky's.  But, as always with her, she is wonderful to watch and
listen to.  A superb artist.

I liked Calleja.  I've gotten used to the rapid vibrato which is less
noticeable live then on recordings.  Except maybe for Carlo Cossutta whom I
liked also, it was the best sung Pollione I have heard since Bergonzi.  I
think this is a role that benefits from a beefier voice and Calleja is
definitely going in that direction.  Matthew Rose was competent.  Of course
I am spoiled by the fact my first Oroveso was Siepi, but I have heard many
others who were far superior.  He is a fine artist but it is not a first
rank instrument.

Great work from the Met Orchestra and Chorus and Carlo Rizzi kept it all
together and moving beautifully.  The production itself does nothing for
me.  Its dark and dreary.   I will credit it for not setting the story on a
spaceship or something else silly.  There was also a lot of silly (for me)
stage business but at least, McVicar has a point to it all and he was
working with respect to Bellini and to Norma.  His ego never got in the

As for Angela Meade, having heard her Norma a few times, I know she will
sing it well.  She is one of the few soprano's who is a viable alternate to
the incandescent Radvanovsky.

One question for the list - in the theatre I heard the broadcast, the sound
seemed to lack power and presence.  Was it just the theatre I was in or did
anyone else hear it that way.

Donald del West

On Sat, Oct 7, 2017 at 4:37 PM, Max D. Winter <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Idia Legray wrote:
> "Sondra was absolutely spectacular from beginning to end."
> Well...not in the first act, IMO.
> The opening scene - recitative, aria and cabaletta - was a bit of a mess.
> Now granted, I cut
> any soprano some slack for "Casta Diva," which is a downright sadistic
> warm-up piece.  But
> my problem with La Rad's singing in the first scene, and parts of the
> second, was that there
> were isolated beautiful phrases and moments but I never had the feeling of
> a firm, steady
> legato line that was going somewhere.  At times it was like she was
> pecking at the music.
> But in the second act she was great from start to finish.  She is an
> estimable Norma, fully
> worthy of the part notwithstanding this afternoon's blemishes.  (In
> fairness to Radvanovsky,
> I've heard several live recordings of Sutherland and Caballe in which they
> don't really get
> going until well past the first scene.)
> Di Donato's bright, clear tone and focused singing was welcome, as
> always.  I did not like
> her emphatic, proto-feminist take on Adalgisa - I think that is foreign to
> the part as written
> - but given that approach, she did it well.  Calleja was excellent, at
> least as heard by the
> mics.  Rose did not belong in that company.  (I recently heard Pinza in a
> 1937 Met
> broadcast - with Cigna - so admittedly my ears were spoiled.  But even so,
> Rose was no
> better than so-so.)   Nice conducting.
> (All the above comments are made with the caveat that HD telecasts can
> significantly
> distort what was actually heard in-house, magnifying annoying things that
> would not be
> noticeable heard in person or, in some cases, making people sound better
> than they do
> live.)
> The production was dull as dishwater and served to demonstrate that a
> "traditional"
> approach can be as objectionable as some Eurotrash take.  What was Norma
> living in - a
> wooden Pantheon?
> Nice to give the kiddies a bow.
> It will be interesting to hear Angela Meade's performance later in the run.
> **********************************************
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