[Met Performance] CID:352170
Norma {140} Metropolitan Opera House: 11/12/2007., Sirius Broadcast live

(Debut: Julianna Di Giacomo


Metropolitan Opera
November 12, 2007 Broadcast

NORMA {140}
Bellini-F. Romani

Norma...................Hasmik Papian
Pollione................Franco Farina
Adalgisa................Dolora Zajick
Oroveso.................Vitalij Kowaljow
Flavio..................Eduardo Valdes
Clotilde................Julianna Di Giacomo [Debut]

Conductor...............Maurizio Benini

Production..............John Copley
Designer................John Conklin
Lighting designer.......Duane Schuler
Stage Director..........Laurie Feldman

Broadcast live on Sirius Metropolitan Opera Radio

Norma received eight performances this season

Production photos of Norma by Beatriz Schiller.

Review of Fred Cohn in the February 2008 issue of OPERA NEWS

Through most of its history, the Met has reserved the title role of Norma for its most imposing divas - Ponselle, Milanov, Callas, Sutherland, Caballé. For the [beginning] performances of this year's revival, the company took a different tack, assigning Bellini's priestess to Hasmik Papian - an able singer and an experienced Norma in other North American theaters, but one whose previous Met appearances, as Aida in three seasons' worth of that opera's revivals, have incited no particular cult following.

At the season premiere on November 12, Papian started uncertainly. She was audibly nervous during "Casta diva," her tone insufficiently supported, with the phrases rushed and their endings blunted. Once that hurdle was past - and her game effort rewarded with a generous ovation - she was able to settle down and show her stuff. The freshness of her soprano was a definite asset, and the role's upper reaches were easily available to her.

The voice is brighter than one expects in this role, an attribute that affected her characterization. This was a sanguine Norma, less grand in manner than one expects. She was more convincing joining hands in friendship with Adalgisa in "Ah! Sì, fa core e abbracciami" than when she exploded in rage at Pollione a moment later. At that juncture, the crucial passage "Tremi tu?" failed to sound: Papian just didn't have the requisite force in the lower part of her range to realize it. Throughout the performance, difficult passagework was simplified or smudged. One appreciated Papian's efforts to seek her own approach rather than emulating her celebrated predecessors, but this was not the titanic portrayal that the epic role

From a vocal standpoint, the heroine of the evening was the Adalgisa, Dolora Zajick, in lustrous voice. One wouldn't necessarily consider this eminent Verdian a natural bel cantist, but here the voice was agile and scaled down to suit the dimensions of the assignment. If anything, at times Zajick's efforts to hold back the torrents of power at her disposal seemed "too" successful. The cadenza leading into "Mira, o Norma," for instance, was sung in a careful "piano," and here one might have wished for just a bit more oomph - although not necessarily at the level of Amneris denouncing the priests.

Franco Farina is by no means a bel canto singer, and a pinched quality to his tenor keeps the tone from being entirely pleasing, but as Pollione, his firmness of attack counted for a lot. Vitalij Kowaljow's resonant, craggy bass suggested both Oroveso's zealotry and his underlying humanity. Maurizio Benini quite rightly approached the opera as an integrated work of art, rather than a prima donna vehicle, bringing an almost symphonic coherence to his shaping. He restored a good deal of "Norma's" classical proportions by [restoring] some (but unfortunately not all) of the standard cuts. The 2001 John Copley production, played out in John Conklin's spare, chilly sets, cuts the work off from the natural world and drains it of much of its humanity.

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