[Met Performance] CID:122010
Norma {38} American Academy of Music, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: 11/30/1937.

(Review)


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
November 30, 1937


NORMA {38}
Bellini-F. Romani

Norma...................Gina Cigna
Pollione................Giovanni Martinelli
Adalgisa................Bruna Castagna
Oroveso.................Ezio Pinza
Flavio..................Giordano Paltrinieri
Clotilde................Thelma Votipka

Conductor...............Ettore Panizza

Director................Désiré Defrère
Designer................Joseph Urban

Norma received four performances this season.

Review of Edwin H. Schloss in the Philadelphia Record

"Norma" Old-Fashioned? Not in Met [Start of Season] Here

A strong detachment from the Italian wing of the Metropolitan Opera Association invaded the Academy of Music last night to open the New York company's 52d season here with a performance of "Norma." And be it said that Manager Edward Johnson's [first] choice of Vincenzo Bellini's centenarian classic provided an operatic evening in the grand manner on both sides of the footlights. The house was jammed by a brilliant audience: while the stage afforded an excellent recreation of a work which is of the essence of the great Italian bel canto tradition of the last century - the golden age of opera.

Wax-Works Tragedy

"Norma" came last night as a semi-revival, last heard here when the Met revived it for Rosa Ponselle about 10 years ago. Nor had it been heard frequently before since the great Lllli Lehmann donned the white robes and holly crown of Bellini's Druid priestess and made the part her own as the last of a line of famous "Normas," back in the '90's. The opera is a wax-works tragedy of the Romans in ancient Gaul, embroidered with a score rich in melodious set pieces following each other with the regularity of a costume recital.

"Norma" is essentially and mellifluously a "singer's opera" and no one has ever pretended otherwise. Wagnerian opera lovers may leave a performance of "Norma" feeling as if they were drowned in honey. Yet no one can deny it is the very best honey, and that "Norma" when well sung can be a charming experience. And charming and surpassingly well sung it was last night. In last night's cast call Gaul was divided in three parts of which the most important was occupied by Gina Cigna in the title role with Bruna Castagna as "Adalgisa" and Giovanni Martinelli as "Pollione" - the perfidious Roman Proconsul and tenor of the evening.

Miss Cigna's' Debut

It was a Philadelphia debut for Miss Cigna, who joined the Metropolitan forces last year. Blond and statuesque, as the classic Norma should be, La Cigna last night disclosed a voice of animal volume and excellent quality used with a fine sense of line and phrasing. Her trial came early in the evening with the famous "Casta Diva" aria in the first act and she passed the test cum laude [starting] the tender Chopinesque melody at half-voice and building beautifully to the bolder finale. Notable, too, was the Second Act "Deh, con te, con te." as well as her fine ensemble in the duet "Mira O Norma" and in the final trio of the First Act.

Bruna Castagna Scores

Ably seconding Miss Cigna, and at times crowding her for premiere laurels, was the admirable singing of Bruna Castagna in the important mezzo-soprano part of Adalgisa. In their numerous duets, Miss Castagna's brighter voice blended beautifully with Norma's softer tones and altogether added a large balance on the credit side of the production. Giovanni Martinelli, tenoro prima in the role of Miss Cigna's faithless but repentant Roman lover, gave a sturdy performance. The graying veteran's voice is not what it was 20 years ago - but whose is? And at any rate it is still used with the artistry and craft of an old master at the game.

Pinza in Small Part

Ezio Pinza, the Met's ace basso, sang the relatively small part of "Oroveso," Druid priest, a contribution that was just so much velvet thrown in for good measure. Thelma Votipka and Giordano Paltrinieri sang well in minor support. Ettore Panizza conducted with skill and discretion. The choruses were up to the usual high Metropolitan standards.

Last night's audience, in general, took the whole performance to its be-diamonded and starched-shirted bosom with an enthusiasm that ran to many recalls for all members of the cast. The audience took full advantage too, of the social advantages of "Norma," with its four short acts and frequent intermissions for lobby parade. And altogether it was a large and luxurious evening - a gracious [start] for the eight-opera season Manager Johnson will carry on at Broad and Locust this winter.



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