Sadness, hopelessness, bewilderment are all there in this amazing performance. Listen to her 'pianto' (2:11). It is one of the most amazing sounds I've ever heard...
LA SONNAMBULA: Ah! non credea mirarti (Bellini)
accomp. by Mr. Alfredo Barili [Patti's nephew, piano]
Gramophone & Typewriter Company (the forerunner of HMV),
n° (683c) 03084. Recorded at Craig-y-nos Castle, Patti's home in Wales / June 1906
Adelina Patti (1843-1919) remains one of the most famous sopranos in history due to the pure beauty of her lyric voice and the unsurpassed quality of her belcanto technique. Giuseppe Verdi was not alone in calling her the greatest vocalist that he ever heard. So remarkable was the spontaneity of her singing and the singular beauty of her voice that terms like "belcanto" and "coloratura" were first generally used to describe her singing. Patti's early acoustic recordings are an important link in the search for an authentic belcanto tradition.
She was born in Madrid to Italian parents, and raised in New York. She made her operatic debut at the Academy of Music, New York in 1859, aged 16, where she performed the title role of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor. In 1861, she took the soprano role of Amina in Bellini's La Sonnambula in Covent Garden, which demonstrated her outstanding talent.
She furthered her career by performing on an international level, became highly successful, and was adored by her audiences. She built a 150-seat theatre at her house 'Craig-y-Nos' (Wales) and conducted many private concerts there, performing long after her official retirement.
She produced approximately 30 gramophone recordings of songs and operatic arias, which have since been "remastered" and reissued on CD.
Patti cut these (gramophone) recordings during 1905 and 1906. By then she was aged in her 60s, with her voice well past its prime. Nonetheless, the limpid purity of her tone and the smoothness of her legato line remain uniquely impressive. The records also display a lively singing personality as well as a surprisingly strong chest voice and a mellow timbre. Her long trill on "l'amo _ _ re" (2:02) is wonderful and her diction excellent.
In the issue of "Opera News" March 2009 edition, there is an article by Peter G. Davis, titled "Awake and Sing" on the new Met production of La Sonnambula with Nathalie Dessay. According to this article, Adelina Patti is still regarded as one of the best interpreter of this aria "Ah, non credea mirarti" despite the fact that she was 63 when she recorded it.
In her record of "Ah, non credea", Patti sounds a lot more like Caballé than like any leggiero, but again it was recorded so late in her career that we don't know how much the sound of her voice may have changed. And in Henderson's comparison of Patti's voice to Melba's, he speaks of Patti's "fluty tones" and contrasts them to Melba's clarion, trumpet-like tones.
Adelina Patti, aged 17, as La Sonnambula, 1860-61
Adelina Patti / Langfier, ca.1900
Una pagina cantabile di scomoda tessitura centrale come "Ah non credea mirarti"... La prima frase è già una prova difficile per testare la limpidezza, la fermezza e l'uguaglianza della voce nella zona centrale ed in particolare nella zona critica del primo passaggio di registro: nell'attacco, la vocale A sul mi3... la salita senza creare bruschi "scalini"... Bellissimo il trillo su "ravvivar l'amOre", facile bella, rotonda e sfogata la successiva A di "piAnto".