Eide Norena - world renowned -
yet nearly forgotten

... unless you are a vocal connoiseur ...

Eide Norena What else do we know about her? This fine singer with exceptional voice control, born in Norway in 1884, can be heard on records dating back to 1911/13 in roles as varied as Dinorah and Butterfly.

Norena's voice was initially somewhat lacking in power and individuality but she was to become a good actress, trained for the stage by her husband, Egil Eidé, a well-known actor, whose name she took and retained.

She was known as Kaja Eide until her La Scala début as Gilda with Toscanini in 1924 when she was forty, but with a voice still so light that this début could have been both the making of her public reputation or the beginning of the end.

Eide Norena

However, this slender, graceful figure with a restrained voice hid sterner stuff. In London, Eide Norena was helped with advice from Melba (not usually known for her generosity to potential rivals, though she had by this time given up the roles of Mimi, Violetta and Gilda, the newcomer's prime roles).

Guided also by Raimund von der Mühlen, Kaja remodelled the character of her voice.

Eide Norena's vocalism was straight from the school of Marchesi

Her high-placed attack was straight from the school of Marchesi; her timbre with its perceptible sensual tremulo, was like a vibrant celestial bell. Eide Norena's phenomenal breath control enabled her to master octave leaps, ornaments and sostenuto singing, while her perfectly formed and effective messa di voce was intact even in one of her last recordings, on retirement at 55, the Care selve from Atalanta.

Her new identity was marked with a new name: Eidé Norena. Most of Eidé Norena's time was spent in Paris, at the Opéra and Opéra-Comique.

For a good twelve years programmes featured her portrait, coiffured by Jean Patou, the epitome of understated chic, impeccable and exquisite; the same could also be said of her career.

Despite her late start, she was spared the usual intrigue and rivalry as she rose to the peak of her profession. She made her first appearance at Covent Garden immediately after La Scala, once again as Gilda in Rigoletto, and managed not to offend Ivogün who had just appeared there in the same role.

Following the stunning and idolised Lotte Schoene in the role of Liù (Turandot), Norena went on to acquit herself no less memorably as the simple Mimi (La Bohème), alongside Gigli and Stabile, described by The Times, in an unexpected and lavish compliment, as "an ensemble".

Finally, in the coronation season she held her own as Desdemona against the giant voice and presence of Martinelli. She was in no way intimidated by such formidable stage partners: in Paris she had faced first Franz, then Melchior.

Eidé did not set foot in America until 1926 when, like so many others, she chose Chicago for her début. However, Edith Mason was well established there and Norena was only given minor roles: Anna in Loreley.

Eidé Norena was justifiably renowned throughout the 1930's for the light, flexible, pure performance of Thomas's Ophelia: the delicate pathos, her purity of spirit during the aria (which received the accolade of the Purple Label in ACSB re-issues) are without equal.

At the end of her career, aged 55, her controlled breathing and vocal command, not to mention the octave leaps in her Care selve, are incomparable.

Such unacknowledged virtuosity so late in the history of singing could only have belonged to an isolated genius, an outsider.

Eide Norena - Music critics' comments

on the Metropolitan’s “Romeo and Juliet”:

But then one falls victim to her (Eide Norena’s) unique vocal coloring, the exotic middle voice often flowing like citrus-tainted honey (as in the 'Ange adorable' duet of act one of Romeo and Juliet).

We are compelled to nod appreciatively at her accurate graces as she begins the waltz song and to admire the clean rush of scales which ends the aria.

-- The music of the balcony scene fairly droops with the languid longing of her tones; her initial 'Hélas' is a wail and the portamenti are heavy indeed. Yet her coloring of these phrases gives a pungency to Gounod's melodies that seems exactly right.

A pity that only this broadcast Juliette survives of her Met career, for she is an interesting artist of a type no longer in vogue. -- as late as 1984, one auditor of her 1930 Met performances recalled Eide Norena as a "soprano who at her best possessed a magisterial vocal technique."

Irving Kolodin said about "Care Selve" (included on the CD seen here): "Noréna, whose singing of opera has not often moved me, is an inspired artist on this disk (the original record). Those who find it difficult to acquire are urged to investigate . . ."

David Hall (1940) “Music lover’s guide to the Phonograph”

"Of the many recordings of the Roi de Thulé ballad and the Jewel Song, Noréna's is by far the best"

-- “Carmen”: "Micaëla's Air, beautifully sung by Noréna."

Eide Norena on CD

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