In which we obtain a bootleg copy of Bellini’s Norma under extremely suspicious circumstances

Well, don’t I feel dumb. A while back I ordered an “unofficial” recoding of Don Carlos from one of the usual places, because Sondra Radvanovsky was singing Elisabetta and I wanted to hear it. When I got it, I was disappointed when the first disc began with the San Yuste scene (“Carlo il somno imperatore”). I thought Act I was missing, because although I knew there were various longer and shorter versions of this opera with different sections added, removed or revised, I had never yet heard one that began at that point of the story. So, I wrote a polite email and they sent me another copy of the recording. This one was identical to the first. So I wrote another polite email and they offered to send me something else instead. I figured their recording was just missing a piece and that was that, so I accepted a bootleg of Norma also involving Sondra Radanovsky in its place. Because of the sort of operation this is, I didn’t have to return either iteration of Don Carlos.

Then, this morning, I had one of those “hm, I wonder” moments and I discovered that there is in fact a version of Don Carlos that omits Act I and begins with the San Yuste scene, and it was this truncated version that the San Diego opera elected to perform back in 2003. It’s a rarity in some sense, I guess, because I have never before either on CD or in an opera house encountered the opera in this particular form. After all, as these things go, Act I is a pretty good act. I rather like the Carlos/ Elisabetta duet – in fact, I was particularly looking forward to hearing Radvanovsky letting fly Elisabetta’s excited high notes toward the end.

So, I suppose we can say that I have learned something. We could also say, however, that I have probably convinced the customer service email person at PremiereOpera that I’m either an idiot or wicked sneaky – but fortunately, that is all in the past now and I can go and listen to my new recording of Norma. Ita sul colle, Druidi, etc. etc.

5 thoughts on “In which we obtain a bootleg copy of Bellini’s Norma under extremely suspicious circumstances

  1. Ha, I’m glad it worked out well! 😀 I didn’t know that Don Carlos has been performed without the first act either. Weird… but then it’s the old SDO, I guess. 😉 Hope the Norma is a good one!

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  2. At the risk of oversimplifying: insofar as Don Carlo was in the rep (it wasn’t standard for most of the 20th century), the four act Italian version was what there was until Andrew Porter rappelled into the Paris Opera basement and found the rest of it 🙂

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    1. Thanks for the link – luckily I still have full access to JSTOR for the time being, and I was able to get the whole article. (Cool to find out that one reason that the role of Eboli is so tricky was that it was initially intended for one singer but completed with a different one in mind – no wonder it’s hard to find anyone who can nail both the veil song and ‘don fatale’!)

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