Bellini's Norma

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Joan Sutherland and Marilyn Horne in Norma Joan Sutherland and Marilyn Horne in Norma

The Metropolitan Opera Radio Broadcasts go into the archives for a performance of Vincenzo Bellini’s bel canto masterpiece Norma. Joan Sutherland and Marilyn Horne star in this production, recorded April 4, 1970. Richard Bonynge conducts and Paul-Emile Deiber, who died on Dec. 14, 2011, is the director.

The role of the Druid priestess Norma, one of the most challenging in the soprano repertory, was a specialty of Sutherland's and one of her most acclaimed interpretations. The 1969-70 season, when this performance took place, was her first time singing the role at the Met. Horne made her Met debut in this run of performances as Adalgisa, Norma's romantic rival.


Joan Sutherland (Norma)
Marilyn Horne (Adalgisa)
Carlo Bergonzi (Pollione)
Cesare Siepi (Oroveso)
Richard Bonynge, conductor

Comments [27]

Eric from New Jersey

I was hooked on opera when I heard Joan Sutherland the first time,I was 15!!!say whatever you want about this fabulous LADY,she was all I could hope for and learned singing directly from her,I saw every performance she gave at the Met and Norma was the first one.I was scared to death during the trio,the way as she changed possitions with Marilyn H the stares coming from her eyes to the tenor as she sang "Oh,di qual sei ti vittima......."it was like daggers,the drama was real intense. Absolutely unforgettable performance.I was blessed with her friendship also every time I spoke to her and Richard!!! Joan lives FOREVER!!!!!

Oct. 15 2012 08:46 AM
concetta nardone

Ma madre from Enna, highest point in Sicily. Cold. Lovely city.What started me on my love of opera was listening to Cavelleria and it was sung in the vernacular. Understood every word.
Enjoyed these exchanges. Do not know if I will be starting any more kerfufels. Tante belle cose e auguri.

Jan. 17 2012 07:20 AM

My maternal family was from Bronte, in the shadow of Etna. My Great-Grand mother used to tell me they always kept one eye on the mountain - in case.
It's good to have vineagar. I have 2 older friends ( 92 & 95) & they both take no prisioners. Keep the faith. Believe in what your heart tells you. No animosity on my end.

Jan. 17 2012 12:02 AM
Concetta Nardone from Elmont, NY

O Beduzza Cavanaugh,
Have not heard that word in many moons. There was a tv series years ago with Robert Loggia, and he used to call his secretary beduzza. As for age, I am 75 years old and from what you have gathered, still full of vinegar. Half Sicilian, father from the Vesuvius area. KABOOM. He said you could always feel the ground shaking a bit. It was as if the God that lived there was saying, Yes, you can worship the Desert God but remember that here on Vesuvius, I rule.

Jan. 16 2012 10:18 AM

O BEDUZZA. DO YOU HAVE TO HAVE THE LAST WORD? You are just perpetuating myths by invoking them. And what does age have anything to do with your opinion? The 1st Amendment gives everybody the right to their opinion, not their age. My girlfriend was trained by SODERO & I went with her many times to the sessions. Sill think you are older than I am? LMAO

Jan. 15 2012 08:34 PM
Concetta Nardone from Elmont, NY

My God, did I start a kerfufel? As for looking "Sicilian". The stereotype of Sicilian is dark and swarthy. Sicilians and Italians come in all sizes, shapes and colors. Do not know what world Cavanaugh lives in. The stereotype is still out there. Turn on the TV. I had a grandmother with green eyes and she looked like a Viking lady. As for opera, Opera is also theatre not just singing. We can criticise Joanie, she was an icon and I really liked her. As for Bellini not being in the same league with Chopin and Wagner, Wagner very much admired Bellini and Siegfried's Rhine Journey sounds like it was inspired by Bellini. There is a piece by Chopin that very much sounds like the cello piece from Norma.
Come on guys, this was supposed to be a friendly joust.

Jan. 15 2012 09:30 AM
Kurt Blaihut from Trail BC Canada

This spectacular broadcast of Bellini's great and moving opera Norma could hardly be bettered. Indeed ,Callas was a magnificent heroine. She was a s ferocious as a tigress. Joan Sutherland sang the role as a tender,loving mother. Marilyn Horne was a glorious Adalgisa,Bergonzi,a fine Pollione and Cesare Siepi a moving and sonorous Oroveso. Maestro Bonynge was excellent as he always was in Bellini.

Jan. 14 2012 08:06 PM

What does a Sicilian look like Ms. Nardone. My family has blondes, brunettes & red-heads; light blue eyes all the way to dark brown eyes. All full Sicilian heritage. What are you trying to say? What world do you live in? son confuso.

Jan. 14 2012 06:34 PM
Marci from Boynton Beach, Fl.

I think that of all the comments, Marilyn Horne has been ignored. She is one of the most outstanding of all the opera singers in the world. She even gets the attention of my dog, "Biscuit", who is quite a critic.

Jan. 14 2012 04:07 PM

Ms. Nardone must have standards that are off the chart. These criticisms of Sutherland's acting and diction are as old as the hills. Yes her acting was stiff and her diction could be muddled. Pavarotti's acting was equally stiff, he was obese, and sang only in two languages. Would you call him not a great musician as well? Sutherland who was not Italian sang in at least three or four non native languages. But there is something called SINGING and in this regard she was and still is unsurpassed in her chosen rolls, particularly Norma. Callas could act and her diction was perfect, but her voice quality was never first rate, particularly late in her career when it was down right awful. Sutherland sang wonderfully into her sixties.

I would also not put Bellini anywhere near Chopin and Wagner. This shows a clearly musically ignorant bias. As Richard Strauss stated "I am a first rate second rate composer". Bellini is not near Strauss.

Jan. 14 2012 04:00 PM
concetta nardone from Elmont, NY

Joanie sounds better in this last act. Yes, she was La Stupenda but Maria was La Divina. Don't be mad. Just a friendly joust.

Jan. 14 2012 03:56 PM
Paul johnson

You do not get called LA STUPENDA for nothing and that was from the Italians!!!

Jan. 14 2012 03:34 PM
concetta nardone

Joan Sutherland was bigger than life. An icon. But she had problems vocally. Her high notes were spectular but a great singer is more than high notes. She was muddled and scooped a lot. She was a really great person but great singer, no. Great musician. no. Could not understand her most of the time and I am fluent in Italian. There were better singers out there. Don't be angry. Differences are good. It would be nice if QXR would play the Callas recording. As for Bellini. He was holy water. Chopin and Wagner dipped into this holy water. Ms. Horne is really outstanding in this broadcast.

Jan. 14 2012 03:03 PM
marie from pleasanton, CA

What a joy to hear these gems online! My love of opera began with Sat. Morning Met Broadcasts in the 1930s. My deepest appreciation goes on and on. I heard Marilyn Horne live at the Met 1992 in Ghosts of Versailles.."Norma debut" today is a gem!

Jan. 14 2012 02:33 PM
David Krongelb from fort lauderdale

mr haller,
you really are an idiot. i suggest you turn it off if you're so unmoved by this amazing performance. i've seen every artist from the golden age of the '60s, in and out of their respective primes, and it doesn't get better than this. unhappy opera-goers are a bore to the rest of us. turn it off and stop complaining.

jack in jersey city,
where? i was born and raised in jersey city. journal square area.

Jan. 14 2012 02:30 PM

Extraordinary performance! Thank you WQXR!

Jan. 14 2012 02:25 PM
James from New York

Yes, Jack from New Jersey, Ms. Sutherland did sing on the Ed Sullivan. Her most enjoyable TV perfomance for me, however, was when she was on the Dinah Shore show with Ella Fitzgerald, and all three ladies sang "Three Little Girs From School Are We" from The Mikado; Dinah and Ella needed mikes; Joan did not.

Jan. 14 2012 02:06 PM
concetta nardone from Elmont, NY

No Mr. Cavanaugh, I have been unfortunate to hear these remarks as I am older than you. Also with a Sicilian mother. I do not look "Sicilian" and that is why I have heard these stupid remarks. DiStefano was also Sicilian from Palermo. Also, agree with Jeff. We all loved Joanie but she is scooping all over the place on this opera. Bergonzi sounded flat. In Italy if the tenor is not so great in this role, he is called "coglione" rather than Pollione. Ms. Horne sounds really wonderful with those dark tones. Quite often, the Adalgisa steals the show. Cannot repeat what
coglione" means because I do not want to start a kerfufel. Probably my not finding Joan so great will probably rankle some listeners. And yes, Callas occasionally produced ugly sounds but what soul. Her duet with her father at the end of the opera wounds the soul. And he sings "Ha vinto l'more." Love has won. Yes indeed, get out the handkerchiefs.

Jan. 14 2012 02:02 PM
Joe Carbia from Miami, Fl

Dear Mr. Haller,
You are an absolute moron.

Jan. 14 2012 01:53 PM
larry eisenberg from new york city

They broke the mold with this fine cast,
All splendid singers of the past,
And Bellini is such a treat,
At pure bel canto can't be beat!

Jan. 14 2012 01:52 PM
Jeff Haller from Miami, Florida

I have never been a fan of Callas. Much less so of Sutherland. And Sutherland proves with this performance was an absolutely boring performer she could be. All the notes are gorgeous and so carefully placed and there isn't a moment of spontaneity; and though I don't speak Italian, it all sounds like she has mashed potatoes in her mouth. There is absolutely no musical theatre taking place when she is singing. Callas had such an ugly sound on recording, but with Norma, who cared? She really knew how to move a listener. How interesting it would be for the Met to offer the Callas broadcast in addition to this one to give lesson in what makes a really great singer.

Jan. 14 2012 01:50 PM
JHKinCT from CT.

WOW !!!!!!!!! BRAVA

Jan. 14 2012 01:48 PM
Jack from Jersey City NJ

Dame Joan is the best! She even sang on the Ed Sullivan show.

Jan. 14 2012 01:36 PM
Paul johnson from Cambridge UK

What A Treat to be listening to such great singers on a cold winters evening in Cambridge United Kingdom,Dame Joan vocally prehaps the greatest Norma ever!

Jan. 14 2012 01:24 PM
Joe Carbia from Miami, Fl

Sutherland, Horne, and Bergonzi, all in their prime. it doesn't get better than this.

Jan. 14 2012 01:15 PM

I'm Sicilian & always knew Bellini was one too. Where do these knuckleheaded stories come from? Let's start a new one - Di Stefano was Corsican. How's that for "knuckleheadedness"? "Norma" is a great opera, Sutherland & Horne were fantastic. 'nuff said.

Jan. 14 2012 12:36 PM
concetta nardone from Elmont, NY

Strange reaction when some classical music lovers find out that Bellini was Sicilian from Catania. Think he studied music in Naples. Some stereotypes never die. Classical musical lovers are supposed to be a better class of bum. Better Class of Bum is a comment Robert Mitchum made when asked about his stay in jail for marijuana possession. He said the people there were a better class of bum.

Jan. 14 2012 07:52 AM

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