Montserrat Caballe Sings "Casta Diva" from Orange Festival Norma 1974
This Friday (Sept.23) 176 years ago, the great Vincenzo Bellini died, at the lamentably young age of 33. To many opera fans, including yours truly, Bellini was the greatest - and the most melodically inspired - among the Italian bel canto composers. One can only imagine that if he had lived longer, the opera world would have been blessed with many more of his creations. Arguably his greatest opera was Norma, not just for its many fabulous melodies but also its extraordinary emotional depth, uncommon in the bel canto school that focuses entirely on "beautiful singing". The role of Norma is particularly demanding, requiring a beautiful voice with an easy top, great technique (especially infinite dynamic variations.) There have been many great Normas in history - among them Rosa Ponselle, Claudia Muzio, Maria Callas, Leyla Gencer, Joan Sutherland, Montserrat Caballe, and more recently Edita Gruverova. Here is Caballe singing Casta Diva in the legendary Orange Festival performance in 1974. This performance, with Jon Vickers as Pollione, was almost cancelled because of unseasonable cold and strong wind. We are lucky that it went ahead, and that there is a complete video document. Caballe's high pianissimos and legendary breath control have never been equaled.
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