The mezzo soprano finds herself on top for once as she goes back to basics with an original instrument Norma.

She’s been dropping hints for years but at last Cecilia Bartoli has realised a long held ambition to record the title role in Bellini’s Norma.

The famous mezzo soprano and her record label Decca have been involved in several years of meticulous research in a “back to basics” approach to one of the most iconic operas in the bel canto canon. The musicological and historical context, as well as the genesis and early life of the opera turn out to be extremely complicated and had not yet been researched thoroughly.

Bellini conceived Normafor Giuditta Pasta. She and Maria Malibran, the two most popular interpreters during his lifetime, sang many parts, which today are considered mezzo-soprano roles. The young novice Adalgisa, on the other hand, was sung by Giulia Grisi, who had a lighter soprano voice (Bellini wrote Elvira in I Puritanifor her, Donizetti wrote Norina in Don Pasquale). The virtuosic daredevil Pollione was sung by Domenico Donzelli, whose repertoire included many tenor parts by Rossini, and who thus had a more flexible voice than we have become used...