In Sumi Jo Cecilia Bartoli has chosen a partner in the famous duets who shares her leggiero technique. The effect is pleasing. The duet singing is quite romantic and not at all the showing off that normally characterizes just about everything in this opera. Sumi Jo as Adalgisa also restores the traditional voicing of opera: the older woman, Norma, has the darker voice.
The entire opera seems to be about the opera. This is why I want to see it for myself in Salzburg. The plot of Norma is very intense and emotional, but this intensity is always blunted by the almost absolute focus on vocal technique that it usually receives. With the heavy orchestra and focus on divas Norma is just too hard.
I like the thin blunt sound of the orchestra. The emotions come through with so much clarity. If I were to pick something for this sound to resemble, I would have to say Rossini.
The Bartoli colors are present in abundance. Even after all these years she never ceases to surprise and amaze. This is her Norma, the one she wanted, a joy from start to finish. Critics of her "Casta diva" complain that she doesn't find the long phrase. The problem with her long phrase is that it covers the entire song. Listen again.