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Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835) Norma: Melodrama in Two Acts first produced in Milan in 1831
Norma……………………….. June Anderson
Adalgisa………………………Daniela Barcellona
Pollione………………………Shin Young Hoon
Oroveso …………………….. Ildar Abdrakov
Clotilde……………………….Svetlana Ignatovitch
Flavio…………………………Leonardo Melani
Europa Galante Orchestra and Verdi Festival Chorus
Conducted by Fabio Biondi
Recorded at the Teatro Regio of Parma, March 2001
TDK  DV-OPNOR [163 mins approx.]

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Thankfully, this is a conventional production of Bellini’s Norma. The costumes are colourful and authentic-seeming although the Romans could have been more splendidly apparelled; and the sets are simple, spartan, dimly lit, but dramatically effective.  Biondi leads his forces in a production that has plenty of attack and momentum with stirring set pieces for the big scenes where the people of Gaul are athirst for battle to throw of the yolk of Rome.

The title role of Norma has of course attracted many celebrated performances – those of Lilli Lehmann, Callas and Sutherland come immediately to mind.  All these ladies have been applauded loud and long for their florid agility interpreting the big arias especially Casta Diva the famous number from Act I.  Soprano, June Anderson on this DVD recording, may not be in this same rarefied class, but she equits herself splendidly.  In fact she rises consistently well to the demands of the coloratura part of the Gallic High Priestess torn between her love for the treacherous Roman proconsul, Pollione, her jealous rage on discovering his duplicity with one of her priestesses, and her duty to her people.  This is very much an opera dominated by the two priestesses: Norma and her hapless innocent young priestess assistant, Adalgisa (Daniela Barcelona). Together these ladies chew the scenery in their passionate duets as they discover Pollione’s perfidy, pass through angst and accusation, to a piqued alliance of sworn revenge.  These demanding florid duets are a highlight of the production.  A rather wooden, yet ardent-voiced Shin Young Hoon is the arrogant, unfaithful Pollione while Ildar Abdrazakov is a towering presence as an oaken-voiced Oroveso, the Archdruid keen to lead his people against Rome but puzzled by Norma’s initial hesitation to go to a war that would threaten her lover then keen to ignite firebrands when she discovers his treachery.   

A very satisfying production of one of Bellini’s best-loved operas with Anderson a most persuasive Norma. Her emotionally-laden duets with Barcellona as Adalgisa impress.  

Ian Lace

 


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