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.