A report on Norma (opera) and Joan Sutherland

Domenico Donzelli, Giuditta Pasta,
and Giulia Grisi (original cast)
Sutherland in 1975
Librettist Felice Romani
Sutherland in 1962
Giuditta Pasta for whom the role of Norma was created
Joan Sutherland in 1990
Poster advertising the 1831 premiere
Domenico Donzelli sang Pollione
Giulia Grisi sang Adalgisa
Vincenzo Negrini sang Oroveso
Giulia Grisi dressed as Norma. In 1831, she also sang the role of Adalgisa
Act 2 finale, Luigi Lablache as Oroveso, Giulia Grisi (as Norma), Dominique Conti as Pollione. Her Majesty's Theatre, London, 1843
Alessandro Sanquirico's set design for act 1, scene 2, for the original production
Drawing for Norma (undated)

Notable exponents of the title role in the post-war period have been Maria Callas, Leyla Gencer, Joan Sutherland, and Montserrat Caballé.

- Norma (opera)

She was engaged by the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, as a utility soprano, and made her debut there on 28 October 1952, as the First Lady in The Magic Flute, followed in November by a few performances as Clotilde in Vincenzo Bellini's opera Norma, with Maria Callas as Norma.

- Joan Sutherland
Domenico Donzelli, Giuditta Pasta,
and Giulia Grisi (original cast)

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Callas in 1958

Maria Callas

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American-born Greek soprano who was one of the most renowned and influential opera singers of the 20th century.

American-born Greek soprano who was one of the most renowned and influential opera singers of the 20th century.

Callas in 1958
The apartment house in Athens where Callas lived from 1937 to 1945
The Villa in Sirmione where Callas lived with Giovanni Battista Meneghini between 1950 and 1959
Callas's range in performance (highest and lowest notes both shown in red): from F-sharp below the Middle C (green) to E-natural above the High C (blue)
Callas acknowledges applause in 1959 at the Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam
Callas's rival, Renata Tebaldi, 1961
Tito Gobbi, 1970
Callas during her final tour in Amsterdam in 1973
Aristotle Onassis, who had an affair with Callas before he married Jackie Kennedy
The last residence of Maria Callas, in Paris
Portrait of Callas (2004), by Oleg Karuvits
Maria Callas with her husband Giovanni Battista Meneghini in 1957
Callas getting ready with the help of Luchino Visconti in Milan, 1957
Maria Callas as Giulia in the Opera "La Vestale", by Gaspare Spontini, 1954
Churchill with Maria Callas on Onassis' yacht in the late 50s

The two had sung together for the first time the year previously in Rome in a production of Norma.

In 1952, she made her London debut at the Royal Opera House in Norma with veteran mezzo-soprano Ebe Stignani as Adalgisa, a performance which survives on record and also features the young Joan Sutherland in the small role of Clotilde.

Tullio Serafin

Tullio Serafin

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Italian conductor and former Musical Director at La Scala.

Italian conductor and former Musical Director at La Scala.

Tullio Serafin
Tullio Serafin plaque (Rottanova, Cavarzere)

During his long career he helped further the careers of many important singers, including Rosa Ponselle, Magda Olivero, Joan Sutherland, Renata Tebaldi, and most notably Maria Callas, with whom he collaborated on many recordings.

Norma (Callas, Stignani, Filippeschi, Rossi-Lemeni; 1954) EMI

The sleepwalker in act 2, sc. 2,
(William de Leftwich Dodge, 1899)

La sonnambula

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Opera semiseria in two acts, with music in the bel canto tradition by Vincenzo Bellini set to an Italian libretto by Felice Romani, based on a scenario for a ballet-pantomime written by Eugène Scribe and choreographed by Jean-Pierre Aumer called La somnambule, ou L'arrivée d'un nouveau seigneur.

Opera semiseria in two acts, with music in the bel canto tradition by Vincenzo Bellini set to an Italian libretto by Felice Romani, based on a scenario for a ballet-pantomime written by Eugène Scribe and choreographed by Jean-Pierre Aumer called La somnambule, ou L'arrivée d'un nouveau seigneur.

The sleepwalker in act 2, sc. 2,
(William de Leftwich Dodge, 1899)
Ah! non credea mirarti / Sì presto estinto, o fiore
("I did not believe you would fade so soon, oh flower").
This text from act 2, scene 2, of La sonnambula appears on Bellini's tomb in Catania
Vincenzo Bellini
by Natale Schiavoni
Giuditta Pasta as Amina, May 1831 premiere
Tenor Giovanni
Battista Rubini
sang Elvino
Maria Malibran as Amina – London 1833
Jenny Lind in La sonnambula, 1840s
Fanny Tacchinardi Persiani as Amina by Karl Bryullov, 1834
Elisa Taccani, who created the role of Lisa, by Giuseppe Cornienti
Disegno per copertina di libretto, drawing for La sonnambula (1954).
Alessandro Sanquirico's set design for act 2 scene 1
Alessandro Sanquirico's set design for the act. 2 scene 2 sleepwalking scene for the premiere production

Returning to Milan after the I Capuleti e i Montecchi performances in March 1830, little occurred until the latter part of April when Bellini was able to negotiate a contracts with both the Milan house for the autumn of 1831 and another for the 1832 Carnival season at La Fenice in Venice; these operas were to become Norma for La Scala and Beatrice di Tenda for Venice.

Contributing to the revivals were Joan Sutherland's taking the role of Amina at Covent Garden in 1961 and at the Metropolitan Opera in 1963, where the role become one of her most significant successes.

Orombello and Beatrice, by Pelagio Palagi, 1845

Beatrice di Tenda

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Tragic opera in two acts by Vincenzo Bellini, from a libretto by Felice Romani, after the play of the same name by.

Tragic opera in two acts by Vincenzo Bellini, from a libretto by Felice Romani, after the play of the same name by.

Orombello and Beatrice, by Pelagio Palagi, 1845
Bellini by Pietro Lucchini
The original 15th-century Beatrice Lascaris di Tenda
Librettist Felice Romani
Poster advertising the premiere of Beatrice di Tenda
Soprano Giuditta Pasta sang in the Venice premiere
Bass Ignazio Marini sang in Palermo
Francesco Bagnara's set designs for act 1, scene 1
Francesco Bagnara's set designs for act 1, scene 3
Francesco Bagnara's set designs for act 1, scene 4

The opera was Bellini's penultimate work, coming between Norma (1831) and I puritani (1835) and it was the only one of his operas to be published in full score in his lifetime.

Beatrice di Tenda was revived in 1961 by the American Opera Society in New York with Joan Sutherland, Enzo Sordello, Marilyn Horne and Richard Cassilly under Nicola Rescigno, and in the same year at La Scala with Sutherland and Raina Kabaivanska and with Antonino Votto conducting.

Caballé in Milan, 1971

Montserrat Caballé

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Spanish operatic soprano.

Spanish operatic soprano.

Caballé in Milan, 1971
Caballé in 1969
Caballé in 1975
As Rossini's Semiramide at the 1980 Aix-en-Provence Festival
Caballé in 1982.
Caballé with husband and son, at Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan, 1971
Plaque at her birthplace in Barcelona
Music academy Montserrat Caballé in Arganda del Rey.

That same year she returned to the Met as Elisabetta in Don Carlo with Franco Corelli in the title role, and sang the title role of Bellini's Norma in Philadelphia.

In Bellini's Norma, Caballé recorded both the title role (for RCA Red Seal in 1972, with Domingo as Pollione) and later the role of Adalgisa, to Joan Sutherland's Norma in a 1984 Decca recording conducted by Richard Bonynge.

Beverly Sills in 1956, photo by Carl Van Vechten

Beverly Sills

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American operatic soprano whose peak career was between the 1950s and 1970s.

American operatic soprano whose peak career was between the 1950s and 1970s.

Beverly Sills in 1956, photo by Carl Van Vechten
Sills in Manon, 1969
Sills in 1984
The tombstone of Beverly Sills in Kensico Cemetery

Her farewell performance was at San Diego Opera in 1980, where she shared the stage with Joan Sutherland in a production of Die Fledermaus.

Although Sills' voice type was characterized as a "lyric coloratura", she took a number of heavier spinto and dramatic coloratura roles more associated with heavier voices as she grew older, including Bellini's Norma, Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia (with Susanne Marsee as Orsini) and the latter composer's "Three Queens", Anna Bolena, Maria Stuarda and Elisabetta in Roberto Devereux (opposite Plácido Domingo in the title part).