Thursday, September 22, 2016

Wonderful Norma

For a delightful family celebration we took a box at Covent Garden to see Norma. Bumped into three business friends (of 3 different "ranks") so it was clearly the place/time to go. The cast is absolutely sensational!  Sonya Yoncheva in the title role sung with exquisite passion and power, Joseph Calleja as Pollione was also extraordinary, and Sonia Ganassi who sings the young priestess Adalgisa was also excellent. And Brindley Sherratt was stalwart as Orvesio the religious leader and father of Norma.

The production was not great - trying to make the druidic cult into some form of extreme catholic Christianity doesn't really work and you can't help feeling that the trendy Catalan producers from La Fura dels Baus are simply trying to have a pop at Catholicism. The use of KKK style hats (Capirote - worn by some priests and penitents eg in Valencia) certainly added a frisson.

The singing and playing were superlative. But I felt that that the libretto lacked the psychological depth of the great Mozart or Strauss operas. According to the programme note Bellini insisted on Felice Romani, who created over 60 librettos for a plethora of composers - one, Francesca da Rimini was set by 11 different composers! He wrote 10 for Donizetti (including Anna Bolena and L'elisir d'amore) and 7 for Bellini. Even these great opera composers had their libretti re-used on occasions.

There was BTW a very interesting programme essay by Rev Sarah Linton on censorship and the religious aspects called "Cross it out.." which begins: "In August 1830 a performance of Auber's La Muette de Portici sparked off the Belgian Revolution"

All in all, a wonderful evening and a wonderful performance. Catch it if you can!


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