The roles of Norma and
Adalgisa are normally interpreted by a soprano and a mezzo, even though in certain
productions the parts are inverted with Norma as a mezzo and Adalgisa a
soprano and in others [read Very Juicy, August
sopranos confront each other. In
essence, what is needed are two dramatic women's voices with coloratura and agility as well as a
large extension. The men's roles are less taxing, and less important.
Also the orchestralscore is mostly in support of the voices.
The Stuttgart production seen
and heard in Palermo is by Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito, the sets and the costumes are by Anna Viebrock, lighting by Mario Fleck. Some ten
years ago, it received the award of the German Music Critics. Most importantly, it is the
forerunner of other stagings, most significantly the Salzburg Moshe Leiser and Patrice
Caurier, with Cecilia Bartoli in the title role; that same production was
widely praised and gained the 2013International Opera Award.
In short, Jossi Wieler and
Sergio Morabito, and later Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier, changed the
place and the time of the action from ancient Gallia under the Roman domination to France during the German occupation
in the nineteen forties. Norma and her fatherOroveso led a group of partisans in
the resistance. Pollione is the German gauleiter (proconsul) in charge of
the area. The entire action takes place within a ruined church, with a simple quarter for
the parish priest. Norma, of course, knows
quite well how to use a gun and can be quite violent in her interaction
with Pollione, throwing her shoes at him and also an open bag of his
dirty shirts and underwear.
Although the Palermo audience
has been exposed to rather innovative productions [eg A Sexy Summer Night, 23 January 2014], their much
belovedNorma ought to be a
'peplum' Hollywoodstyle affair, with a real temple, long robes and alike. Thus, even
though the singers received much open stage applause during the first act (mostly
in the Norma-Adalgisa duet), part of the audience exploded in protest
during the intermission, not only in the upper tier but also in the boxes
and the stalls. Again a few minutes of silence followed the dramatically stunning finale, the chorus, the singers and the conductor received ovation but when
Samantha Seymour (who had adapted the Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito
production in Palermo) came on stage), boos erupted. After the first act
reaction, she would have been well advised to remain quietly backstage.
now come to the musical aspects. Csilla Boross was at her debut with the
role after several years of singingPuccini, Verdi and Wagner both
in her native Hungary and
internationally. She handled the impervious part superbly both dramatically
and vocally. Her Casta Diva was a
milestone of dramatic soprano agility singing and her duets with Adalgisa
and Pollione had the required intensity. The
mezzo Annalisa Stroppa was up to her style. Aquiles Machado (Pollione)
and Marco Spotti (Oroveso) were of a good standard, but
this is a women's
chorus directed by Piero Monti was excellent. Will Humburg's baton is accustomed to Wagner and Beethoven; thus, the orchestra did not only support the
singers but provided different colors (from the dark Norma-Pollione confrontation
to the spiritual Casta Diva to the enthralling finale, tragic but with the light of hope).