You are about to listen to a voice that is as close to divine as we can get this side of paradise. But I am getting ahead of myself. The song in question is Casta Diva from the two-act opera, Norma, by Italian Romantic composer, Vincenzo Bellini (1801 – 1835). Bellini was just thirty-one years old when he wrote Norma and at the height of his musical life. The opera is a lyrical tragedy centred on Norma, the daughter of a chief druid (priest in ancient Celtic religion). It contains Bellini’s signature long melodies and is considered a masterpiece of the bel canto (“beautiful singing”) genre with its highly expressive style of singing. Casta Diva itself is one of the all-time great soprano arias, one that has a big role in elevating the fame of operatic sopranos like Maris Callas whose performance in 1952 is one of the best to date. The soprano I have chosen to highlight is American soprano, Renée Fleming. A winner of the National Medal of Arts and Richard Tucker Award, Fleming was one the two sopranos whom the renowned conductor, Sir George Solti praised for the fullness of her voice (the other soprano cited by Sir George is Renata Tebaldi).
Casta Diva (Vincenzo Bellini) performed by soprano, Renee Fleming in the Palaces of the Czars in Saint Petersburg.