Bartoli Conquers Norma

Opera nuts go really nuts about Norma. Owning the title role in Bellini’s Druid fable is essential to diva-dom. Bragging rights to having heard the right diva at the peak of her diva-ness count. The rest of us will never hear anyone sing it the way that back in their day (pick your diva) Joan Sutherland, Montserrat Caballé or, above all, Maria Callas nailed it.

Up steps Cecilia Bartoli, a gifted singer who chooses her moments much more shrewdly than almost any other living artist. Callas made Norma soprano territory in the 1950s, but Bartoli has a lower range. When she sang the role for the first time in 2010, she chose a different edition of the score, sang with a period-interest orchestra and performed in concert in a perfectly-tuned house in Dortmund. Critics were wowed.

“Without an intimate space and original instruments, Bartoli could not produce nearly as much variety of sound and color, and no other singer would do quite what she does with this part,” London’s Financial Times said. “But Norma will never sound quite the same again.”

Now the rest of the world gets to hear what the lucky few heard in Dortmund, with a just-released recording featuring Bartoli and a strong cast following the approach of her Dortmund debut in the role. London’s Independent hails “a landmark interpretation.” The reviewer for New York broadcaster WQXR’s Operavore said, “this four-hankie Callas orphan has never heard a more wrenching performance of the Norma finale than the one given here.”

Read more about the recording and Bartoli’s approach on the artist’s website. You can download or buy the album at Amazon – click on the cover image above. Or hear it on Spotify.