Bellini: Norma [DVD]  [NTSC]
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This production of Bellinis famous masterpiece Norma was extraordinary in many aspects. Staged by Italian director and filmmaker Roberto Andó at the Teatro Regio in Parma, it gathered international stars like American soprano June Anderson and shooting star Daniela Barcellona as well as Russian bass lldar Abdrazakov. Audience and critics alike enthusiastically received the remarkable orchestral accompaniment. Fabio Biondis transparent conducting and the authentic performance practice of Europa Galante illuminated the musical structure of Bellinis opera and provided a new perspective on early 19th century opera. Playing on historic instruments, the ensembles velvety tone and transparent playing enabled a constant musical exchange between orchestra and singers, which complemented the exquisite voices perfectly. June Anderson has long been considered one of the leading sopranos in the bel canto repertoire. Her lyric voice shines particularly brightly against the softer sound texture of historic instruments, thus adding a rare flexibility to the dramatic soprano part of Norma. This is especially palpable in the famous aria Casta diva, che in argenti, one of the gems of Italian song.
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The lead role has excellent backup from the other performers with Daniela Barcellona performing excellently as Adalgisa. Unlike so many operas of this kind we have here one in which the two main characters are women. They are in control and everything is going to be done as they want it to be. Too late, Pollione, well sung and performed by Shin Young Hoon, realises Norma's fine qualities and greatness. However, although the tragic ending may seem such a shame for what are, despite all their faults and mistakes, actually highly responsible people, to end the work any other way would have been an anti-climax.
All the singer-performers were excellent, even those like Svetlana Ignatovich who, as the nursemaid Clotilde, didn't have much to sing. After I had watched it all I thought to myself that I could watch this great opera over and over again and never tire of it. Apart from anything else, I find Bellini's music has what I can only describe as 'a delightfully melodious quality' about it. I love this bel canto style of singing and often wonder why it is that so many Twentieth century operas are composed in such a way that it gives the impression that the actors are just shouting at each other. If we listen to people talking we soon find the music.Read more ›
The sets are stagey and unpretencious, but they work fine. They are in keeping with plot.
There is no ambiguity between the staging and the production. Anderson is equal to Gruberova, she is such an easy singer, she does not push her high notes, they just arrive. Barcellona is excellent and Shin Young Hoon is a far better Pollione than Todorovich. All other artistes are equal to their parts in vocal quality. The chorus and orchestra are smooth and make good listening.
Costumes are in keeping with my idea of the period.
The booklet has the usual cast listings, a synopsis, and headlines the arias with timings. There is also a very brief sketch of Bellinis achievements.
There is no doubt that this is my preferred production of the two.
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Whether or not librettist Felice Romani had Medea in the back of his mind when he wrote Norma for Vincenzo Bellini in 1831, it is obvious that there are certain similarities in plot and mood. That inevitable comparison is heightened with this outdoor production in the huge amphitheater that is Sferisterio in Macerata Italy. Filmed in gorgeous high definition, with a minimalist set that is discretely decorated with Celtic symbols as well as Buddhist, pre-Columbian, Roman and even African signs, the mood is ancient, mythic, even Jungian. The feeling of attending a Greek tragedy as an outdoor religious observance is palpable. This is opera as ancient festival and it heightens the experience greatly. There is no denying the impact this dvd makes just with its visual elements.
The performances are slower, more monumental in scope than in an indoor opera house. Perhaps the visual distances involved make this necessary. But it has the ancillary effect of heightening the outdoor ritual aspects of the performance. We might be in a Celtic grove amongst sacred trees, stealthily watching a Druidic ceremony. This Norma looks and feels big and luckily we have two hefty voices to fill the void. Dimitra Theodossiou as Norma has a large voice that manages to fill this vast theatrical space. Daniela Barcellona as Adalgisa has another big voice. Both are well equipped to sing these two problematic roles. Norma's difficulties are well known: Beverly Sills once recommended that the singer of the part wear comfortable shoes. And Norma nearly destroyed Renata Scotto's voice. All of the vocal performances in this production are quite good. The acting is as well, though we are witness to much broader performances than usual, given the size of the venue.
The Orchestra Regionale delle Marche is conducted by Paolo Arrivabeni. As this is an outdoor performance, some aspects of the strings are lost in the open air and the horns are naturally emphasized. Technically, the instruments of the orchestra are nicely recorded, sounding rich and full enough both in PCM stereo and Dolby Digital 5.1, and they play quite well. The film itself is beautiful in its high definition crispness and visual clarity. The cameras emphasize close-ups, when necessary, but usually linger in the middle distance for an orchestra distance view. The opera runs for 165 minutes on two discs with no extras and a booklet written in four languages.
This is a monumental open air Norma, the outdoor aspects of which I found both appropriate and enjoyable. It's not vintage Callas or Sutherland but it is enthralling in its own way. Recommended.
The soloists are average to poor and still suffering from the horrible sound pickup. When the scene is transported to the top or bottom of the stage no one hears anything.
The voices are metal, not that soloists sing well, but the adjustment of the microphones becomes.
The Adalgisa is interpreted by Raffaela Angeletti, thinks the girl is a doll, always makes static movements. Does she entered the wrong opera, Les Contes thought it was D'Hoffmann?
Maria Dragoni has no concept of scenic interpretation. His standard is pure boredom.
Scenarios are a cliche, and beats the old Roman columns and staircases.
The orchestra seems a school band.
The chorus has a sound horroroza.
Two and a half hours of pure torture.
Friends, her shelf. This deserves the gallows in perpetuity.
Norma de Bellini é uma das minhas óperas preferidas, mas essa versão é de arrepiar qualquer centurião romano.
Os solistas são medianos para ruins e ainda sofrem com a horrível captação de som. Quando a cena se transporta para o alto ou o fundo do palco ninguém escuta nada.
As vozes são metálicas, não que os solistas cantem assim, mas a regulagem dos microfones as transforma.
A Adalgisa é interpretada por Raffaela Angeletti, a moça pensa que é uma boneca, faz sempre movimentos estáticos. Será que ela entrou na ópera errada, pensou que era Les Contes D'Hoffmann?
Maria Dragoni não tem a menor noção de interpretação cênica. Sua Norma é pura monotonia.
Os cenários são um clichê, as velhas e batidas colunas e escadarias romanas.
A Orquestra parece uma banda escolar.
O coro tem uma sonoridade horroroza.
Duas horas e meia de pura tortura.
Amigos, prateleira nela. Essa merece as galés perpétuas.
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