La Malibran demands, Bellini will grant."
sonnambula:"Ah, non credea
fire and fame remained unabated even after she left France. Numerous
works continued to be written for her.
Italy became the center of her activities, with occasional appearances
in London. She gave frequent performances in Naples where in 1833 she
added VINCENZO BELLINI's La sonnambula to her repertoire, singing
the role of Amina. But it was in London where the composer saw her performance,
which compelled Bellini to write
"...I was the first to scream at the top of my lungs: 'Viva! Viva!
Brava! Brava!' and to clap as hard as I could."
From then on La sonnambula was a constant feature of her engagements.
Her August 1836 performance of the work in Aachen, Germany was her first
ever in Germany, and sadly - because of her untimely demise from injuries
sustained in an accident in England, her last opera appearance.
As Cecilia Bartoli states in the video interview excerpted below, La
sonnambula is the one opera she would ask Maria Malibran to sing
for her, mainly because it would define how a real mezzo-soprano voice
sounded in those days. Although Bellini expressly wrote it for Giuditta
Pasta, a mezzo-soprano by today's vocal nomenclature (and the tessitura
does lie in that range), the role was later appropriated by sopranos.
Scholars of the day subsequently defined Pasta's voice as that of a
soprano and Malibran's as one that transcended all categorizations,
although both singers shared a common repertoire.
indeed, the range of Malibran's voice was awesome: historical records
and musical scores show that she sang such widely diverse roles as Adina
(in Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore), Leonore (in Beethoven's
Fidelio), Semiramide and Arsace (both in Rossini's Semiramide),
and Desdemona and yes, even Otello (soprano and tenor roles (!) in Verdi's
Otello). The soprano was also a contralto! Back then, there
was no clear middle ground: it was the time when public enthusiasm was
shifting from the male castrato to the female voice, and it was not
until the shift was completed (and the amputative practice that produced
that then exciting, erotic castrato sound discontinued) that the mezzo-soprano
voice type came to be defined and accepted.
CLICK PLAY BUTTON below to view a video clip of Cecilia Bartoli on what
she learned about the extraordinary voice of Maria Malibran.
- video/audio clips and images: copyright � and with permission of Decca