Who loves Cecilia Bartoli, will probably love her Norma. Her eyes sparkle, she rolls her ‘R's, breathes the piani, and tackles the coloratura easily. Her stage début in Norma wants to get rid of the existing performance tradition; to free interpreters from the shadow of Maria Callas. Bartoli's Norma is a celebration of her own personal style: somewhat mannered, but perfect, and always unmistakable.
says Bayerischer Rundfunk.
However Deutschlandradio wanted to boo; not the performers or the production team, but the audience who annoyed with falling handbags, cell-phones and inappropriate hysterical cries of “bravo!”. However, they too cry “bravo” in their review,
Cecilia Bartoli is, at the beginning of Bellini's Norma in Salzburg, below her potential, but then her musicianship shows through… After the interval Bartoli was totally convincing, and her coloratura fireworks fit perfectly, but paramount was her interpretation of the role, which offered something special, very different from Callas (and her countless successors): a spirituality in the bel canto with innumerable shades and colours.
Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier's production, set in Mussolini's Italy, “is like a red carpet, laid out to let the performers shine”, says the Austrian Kurier. And of Bartoli?
She plays with impressive intensity. Her singing, especially in the second part, is enchantingly beautiful… She becomes one with her role, her coloratura, the outbursts, the humility in “Casta Diva” aria, act naturally.
Focus, along with the first night audience, gave a thumbs-up,
The audience relished this Norma beyond all norms („Norma“ jenseits aller Normen) and Bartoli was visibly touched by the ovation.
However, they also noted a slightly subdued Casta diva – maybe stage fright, they ask. This could well be true. I have heard this in her voice during the first ever Sacrificium concert and on her return to La Scala with Barenboim, both high-profile and stressful situations. Nothing could be more stressing than Norma last night. Then her confidence grows, fears are forgotten and the voice opens up like a flower.
Focus also noted staging that was at odds with the libretto, something anticipated by this blog a couple of days ago. Again, it was the second act that impressed most:
Bartoli was on top form in the second act, and gave great drama to her Norma… Rebeca Olvera as Adalgisa looked almost childlike, which gave Salzburg's Norma an even more intimate character, and reminded once more that Bellini was a contemporary of Schubert.
The endless applause at the curtain was almost boo-free.
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.