“It will not be a normal Norma!” joked Cecilia Bartoli to the Corriere della Sera‘s Giuseppina Manin. A joke that works better in Italian: “Sarà una Norma fuori norma!”
She has sung the role in concert form in June 2011 in Dortmund, Germany. Now comes the stage performance in Salzburg, the CD and the commemorative t-shirt.
She won't be a goddess or a heroine from Greek tragedy, but a real woman; a fiery southern woman ready to defy gods and men for the love of Pollione.
… An Anna Magnani type, an image of blazing sensuality that's been my model right down to her look: loose uncombed hair and a tight black dress provocatively low-cut. The production will have a neorealist look paying homage to the cinema of Rossellini.
This is the idea of co-directors Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser who gave us the heavily booed Giulio Cesare at the Salzburg Whitsun Festival last year. We'll see how their concept is received on 17 May, but those of us who heard the wonderful Norma in Dortmund have no doubts about the musical approach, though so different from the Normas of Callas, Caballé and Sutherland. In the place of a Callas we find mezzo Bartoli, and, for the recording, instead of a Simionato we find coloratura soprano Sumi Jo. This is the director's cut!
Bellini wrote Norma thinking of Giuditta Pasta and Maria Malibran, the stars of his time, both mezzo-sopranos. Then the custom of casting dramatic sopranos took over, of which Callas is unsurpassable.
But will opera lovers be able to get that sound out of their heads. Bartoli, as they say in Italy, “ha le palle”! This is underlined by a question about the organised booing after her concert with Daniel Barenboim last December.
At La Scala it has happened to the best: Kleiber and Muti, Callas and Corelli and Pavarotti, so I'm in good company. To be booed at La Scala brings good luck. I'm certainly not going to be intimidated by it. I intend to return as soon as possible!
Yes, Bartoli's got balls alright.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.