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I don't care for Norma and rarely listen to Bartoli BUT.....
on 20 May 2013
I have to be clear from the outset of this review that I don't really care for Norma and while I acknowledge what a fabulous voice Ms Bartoli has, she just doesn't sing what I like to listen to. So both opera and artist are outside my comfort zone. The only Norma I listen to with any regularity is Maria Callas second studio performance (conducted by Serafin)which has Franco Corelli singing a much better Pollione than Mario Filippeschi who sings on Callas's first studio recording from 1954, probably her finest recording and less jaded than the later one but Corelli sells it for me.
I wondered what all the fuss was about and Spotify have made this recording available from day one so I have had the opportunity to listen to it twice today. Wow! Ms Bartoli must have borrowed a time machine to go back to 1831 and listen to what Bellini heard. I can only describe this as like an old master painting that has been restored with all the old varnish and dirt being lifted leaving a bright, vibrant canvas as exciting as when it was first painted.
Everything is just right, from Bartoli's magnificent performance, the other cast fitting well, Sumi Jo, John Osborn and Michele Pertusi sing the roles of Adalgisa, Pollione and Oroveso respectively and all are superb (IMHO). I have not heard Sumi Jo sing better. The period instruments are a breath of fresh air with Giovanni Antonini squeezing every last ounce out of the Orchestra La Scintilla who are dynamic, powerful but gentle when requiring it, but in all cases they are sympathetic to the singers and add the extra factor to this recording.
The Spotify version even on maximum bit rate does not do justice to the excellent engineering of this recording. How do I know? well I went to linn records dot com and bought the FLAC 24bit 96kHz Studio version. It is more expensive at £23.50 but if you can output flac to your DAC then you will hear a huge difference. If you don't have a DAC or are just going to listen on the PC then the CD version will be fine.
For someone who is not a real fan I cannot tell you how impressed I am with this recording. So if you like Norma and/or are a big fan of Ms Bartoli then I guess this is going to really knock your socks off. Finally I think we need to appreciate the work that she has done in researching this and giving us the opportunity to listen to the music as it was meant to be performed.