[Met Performance] CID:232490

Metropolitan Opera House, Mon, February 12, 1973

Norma received six performances this season.

Review 1:

Review of Harold C. Schonberg in The New York Times


Caballe and Cossotto Put on Vocal Show

A new combination for Bellini's "Norma" arrived at the Metropolitan Opera on Monday evening, and an enthusiastic audience roared its approval. Montserrat Caballé in the title role and Fiorenza Cossotto, as Adalgisa, put on a show that had some of the buffs talking about the great singers of the past.

It was a vocal, not a dramatic, show. Miss Caballé and Miss Cossotto represent the arms-stretched school of acting. Between the two there was more arm-flinging than in an extra-innings baseball game. Miss Caballé has studied the Callas approach to the role, and she tried for the imperious gestures that Miss Callas had used so successfully. But the Spanish soprano could not carry them off very well.

For a while the vocal issue was in doubt. Miss Caballé was slow warming up. When she sang the "Casta Diva" there was no doubt of the unusual quality of her voice, or of the sensitivity that she brought to the aria. But she was having pitch troubles - not pronouncedly so, but just enough to blemish the authority of the singing.

In the second-act duet however, Miss Caballé began to straighten out. She and Miss Cossotto received an ovation for this, and the soprano suddenly seemed to decide she was among friends. From that point her singing had a confidence it previously lacked. The pitch was greatly improved, and the normal characteristics of Miss Caballé's singing asserted themselves.

These included beautifully supported pianissimo phrases, a smooth legato, some elegant coloratura scale work and in general, the kind of control that puts her among the world's leading singers. If Miss Caballé does not act very well, she can act with her voice; and, in opera, vocal emotion can be just as compelling as visual credibility. More compelling, indeed.

In one respect this "Norma" had an aspect that the previous Sutherland-Horne "Norma" lacked. Radiantly as those two great singers sang the two big duets, their voices were, paradoxically, too well matched. In this new cast, the creamy voice of Miss Cossotto contrasted beautifully with the more vibrato-free, instrumental-like Caballé sound.

Miss Cossotto, a singer of enormous authority, met her soprano on absolutely even technical and musical grounds. She is a superb artist, with a big voice that is capable of exquisite modulation. The matched phrases that she and Miss Caballé produced in "Mira, O Norma." pitched from mezzo to soprano and back again, exemplified singing of the highest standard.

John Alexander, substituting for an indisposed Carlo Cossutta (the poor fellow had been scheduled to make his debut) sang in his clear, strong, reliable manner. Giorgio Tozzi, in his first Oroveso at the Metropolitan, has lost his vocal bloom but remains a commanding singer nevertheless. Charles Anthony and Carlotta Ordassy had the minor roles of Flavio and Clothilde.

Another newcomer was the conductor, Carlo Felice Cillario. "Norma" is not exactly a conductor's opera, but Mr. Cillario did even more than could be expected. He led the work with obvious authority, and made more out of the last act than his immediate predecessors in the pit. Especially notable was the conductor's steady rhythm; there was none of the rhythmic limpness heard so often at the Metropolitan. Mr. Cillario had the orchestra playing clearly and responsively. Other assignments will give an even better index of his capabilities, but on the basis of this "Norma," the house has found itself a very competent man in Mr. Cillario.

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