HD-Vinyl 24/96 (Decca/London) Vincenzo Bellini – Norma (Sutherland)

Many thanks to our friend Jean-Luc for this wonderful gift
La Stupenda” Joan Sutherland underlines with this performance, that she was the best soprano ever lived. She was able to sing every role with an angelic smile on her face. Sutherland was the vocal wonder of the world at the time of this recording (1964). I would go further after hearing this miraculous recording to call her the vocal wonder of all time. The voice is just opulent and huge. Even Marilyn Horne’s voice sounds thin next to Sutherland’s. She simply opens her mouth, and a gigantic high E-flat comes out with the greate of ease. Note here that Casta Diva is sung in “G” instead of “F”. Which is much more difficult, of course, because of all the sustain high notes. Opera is voice, and Sutherland has been called by Pavorotti as the greatest voice of the century. And this recording proves that. I respect Callas, but her voice and technique can’t touch Sutherland’s.

# Composer: Vincenzo Bellini
# Performer: Joan Sutherland, Marilyn Horne, John Alexander, Richard Cross

# Orchestra: London Symphony Orchestra
# Conductor: Richard Bonynge
# Vinyl (1968)
# Number of Discs: 3
# Format: Flac
# Label: Decca/London
# DR-Analysis: DR: 14
# Size: 3.19 GB
# Scan: yes
# Server: FileFactory


Joan Sutherland became the greatest Norma of all. But she learned her art partly because of her great admiration for Maria Callas. With whom she sang the role of Chlotilda in I think 1953. Maria Callas has to be given credit for making 20th Century bel canto possible.
Then Joan Sutherland takes bel canto, especially Norma, Lucia, and Sonnambula to new heights. La Stupenda, along with Sills, Price, Corelli, Tucker, Peerce, Horne, Scotto, Pavarotti, Domingo, Caballe, Carreres, Milnes, Merrill, Moffo, Nilsson and now Sumi Jo started a new golden age of singing that has never been equalled since the days of Grisi, Pasta, Malibran.(note that not all the above mentioned singers are bel canto singers).
Sutherland’s Norma is a classic Norma in the traditional style of bel canto – long lines, amazing breath support, powerful high notes, trills, and fioratura must be secure in order to be a good Norma. This type of technique is taken to the limit by Joan Sutherland and Marilyn Horne. That makes them the best sung Norma and Adalgisa of our time. Bellini also required his singers to have a large voice. Therefore dramatic sopranos such as Ponselle and Milanov have also made great Normas. However, Caballe and Sills have also been successful in singing the Druid high priestess. But Sutherland is the only Norma who is a true dramatic coloratura. This gives her a huge advantage over other sopranos for obvious reasons.
There are those who think that theatrically she is deficient. But in the true style of Bellini, it is the bel canto style of singing and the music that makes Norma come alive. Remember this is Bellini, not Puccini. Bel canto and verisimo are totally different. And there really is no comparison when it comes to the glorious singing that Dame Joan Sutherland and Marilyn Horne make as Norma and Adalgisa. Their duets are especially ethereal.
This edition of Norma is legendary. It is the one to which all others are compared to. But there are others to choose from. The 1960 Karajan Norma with Callas is a contender, also the 1968 Decca production with Elena Suliotis. In particular, the 1972 live recording of Norma with Sutherland Tourangeau shows Sutherland in even better form with strong chest notes and surprisingly powerful temperament. Both choices are excellent.
But at the end, I always come back to this Sutherland/Horne edition as the true classic Norma. That is, unless the Met releases its 1970 Sutherland/Horne Norma rumored to be the last word in bel canto.

 Analyzed folder: /96k Bellini – Norma – Sutherland
 DR        Peak        RMS        Filename
 DR14        -0.92 dB     -20.41 dB     sideA.wav
 DR13        -0.80 dB     -20.49 dB     sideB.wav
 DR15        -0.74 dB     -21.41 dB     sideC.wav
 DR14        -0.74 dB     -20.54 dB     sideD.wav
 DR14        -0.46 dB     -20.99 dB     sideE.wav
 DR14        -0.72 dB     -20.29 dB     sideF.wav
 Number of files:    6
 Official DR value:    DR14

Ripping Info


If You hear some clicks and pops here and there, Who cares?
Id rather have a few light anomalies instead of destroying the music.
Enjoy the music, not the ticks & pops.
I tend more and more, in the last time, to de-click with an automatic setting between 0.7 and 1.2 so you can say, my rips are like half rough rips.

  • Software: iZotope RX 4 Advanced, Adobe Audition CS 5.5, Twisted Wave 1.9
  • Very light de-clicking with iZotope, significant clicks manually removing, no de-noising
  • DR-Analisys before converting to Flac
  • Converting Wave -> Flac: Twisted Wave 1.9
  • Artwork: Sony Alpha 350, Epson Perfection V750 Pro, Photoshop CS 5.5

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PW: LaWally


21 thoughts on “HD-Vinyl 24/96 (Decca/London) Vincenzo Bellini – Norma (Sutherland)

  1. Ah, mi Alfmaninoff,
    The sound on this Norma is excellent and spacious – a pleasure to hear.
    No doubt Madame Sutherland is the main attraction; but the other voices are good to OK. John Alexander didn’t last too long singing with such bravura without a good strong lower register.

    But all in all it is an exciting recording, and I’m very grateful to Jean-Luc and you for putting this feast on my table.


  2. This is an excellent interpretation of Norma. Thanks Rach for the post and Jean-Luc the vinyl.
    From the great recording, the vocals and the exceptionally fine strings in the orchestra, I speculate that probably Wilkinson should have been the recording engineer.
    I miss Sutherland.

  3. Thank you very much for this!
    Your unconditional adoration for Sutherland is known, so I tried not saying anything…. but… she certainly never was “the greatest Norma”! Opera isn’t only singing (that’s Oratorio or Bach’s Masses), Opera is also acting, the theatre. That’s why it’s called “Melo-drama”. Joan Sutherland sings Norma. Maria Callas interprets Norma, is Norma.
    I believe Sutherland to be most superb as Alcina, as Marguerite, as Esclarmonde, as Margarita di Valois in Les Huguenots, as Lucrezia, Queen of the Night! Not in that “holy trinity” of Italian Bellinian Belcanto – she didn’t even have the correct prononciation and enunciation. Netrebko is committing the same error in our times….
    Moreover, this can never be the definite recording of Norma. Any great recording is a team work! Apart from La Divina, her recording has Corelli as Pollione, not this totally unknown Alexander. And it has Christa Ludwig. And it has the legend Tullio Serafin (not Karajan, as you write) for conductor, with La Scala Orchestra, the greatest in the world, not a mediocre Bonynge with a lesser British orchestra.
    But is is a wonderful, greatly sung, complete recording perfectly captured! No one should in fact be without it. And again thank you very much for offering it to us in such a sumptuous rip! 🙂

  4. Many thanks Rach for this upload and perspective into opera greatness and hierarchy. Dame Sutherland is our one great splash into the operatic world from my country of birth 😀

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