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Bellini,  Norma:  Soloists, Orchestra and Choir Oper Zürich. Conductor: Paolo Carignani. Opernhaus Zurich. 13. 3.2011 (JMI)

Production: Oper Zürich

Direction: Robert Wilson
Sets: Robert Wilson
Costumes: Moidele Bickel
Lighting: Robert Wilson and AJ Weissbard

Norma: Elena Mosuc
Adalgisa: Michelle Breedt
Pollione: Roberto Aronica
Oroveso: Giorgio Giuseppini
Clotilde: Liuba Chuchrova
Flavio: Michael Laurenz

Zürich is one of the few cities in the world where you occasionally have the possibility of attending two opera performances on a given Sunday. On this occasion I even got to see three, with a Norma at 2 in the afternoon and a double bill of Cavalleria Rusticana and I Pagliacci at 8 in the evening.

The Norma production is by Robert Wilson and hasn’t been performed in Zurich since the 1995-96 season, when it aroused considerable interest among opera fans. Add to the interest of this revival the Romanian soprano Elena Mosuc in the title role, a regular in Zurich.

I have been disappointed with Robert Wilson’s stage productions in the past. If opera is passion, then directors should be the vehicle to transmit the passions to the audience by means of their staging. Robert Wilson is a very special case among directors and I find it rather difficult for singers to transmit emotions to the audience when they follow Mr Wilson’s concepts which follow a very different aesthetic. No question that his works are beautiful and they have outstanding lighting effects and come together with very original way of acting. I confess that, even as I realize the excellent aspects of Mr. Wilson’s work, I might have been more moved with a Norma in concert than this production, given that the singers only get to move their hands, while their faces remain like masks.

The musical direction was entrusted to Paolo Carignani, who gave a lively reading of the score, particularly considering that what he had in front of his eyes did not invite brisk tempos. The orchestra and the Choir performed very well.

Elena Mosuc is a singer who has been part of the company for many years now and she enjoys a strong following in Zurich. It still surprised to me that she ad decided to make her debut as Norma. Elena Mosuc is a very good a light-lyric soprano. But when we check the names of the great Normas of the last 30, 50 years it is a different kind of soprano that comes to mind. Mrs. Mosuc’s Norma is more in the line with Edita Gruberova’s Norma of the last few years. In the first act Elena Mosuc ever the excellent singer, was easy at the top and with an outstanding coloratura. From the trio that ends Act I onward and through the whole Act II her voice was not well suited to the dramatic moments, but much to her credit she never pushed her voice beyond her natural limits.

South African mezzo soprano Michelle Breedt was a fine Adalgisa, with a small voice and a little tight in the upper notes. Roberto Arónica has become a true spinto tenor, displaying a wide, well projected, and shining instrument. He has lost some of his former easiness in the high register, as was notable in the cavatina "Ecco al altar di Venere”. Giorgio Giuseppini had a weak start as Roveso, but improved much in the second Act.

José Ma. Irurzun

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