A fitting way to end a wonderful season, Bellini's Norma at The Dallas Opera is absolutely stunning both vocally and visually. The vocals blew me away more so that any opera this season, and with good reason! Norma is considered to be one of the most challenging operas to perform, clocking in at nearly 3 hours. The world-class cast excelled both in vocal skill and emotive performances. The production team created a grandiose setting transformed by lighting effects which only added emotion and context to each passing scene. As the last opera of the season, this is a must-see! Click here for upcoming performances and ticket info, they start at just $19!
Norma is a Bel Canto opera, the Italian vocal technique and style of the 18th and early 19th centuries, with its emphasis on beauty of sound, literally translating to, “beautiful singing.” Bel Canto is characterized by beauty and evenness of tone, legato phrasing, and skill in executing highly florid passages, all of which shine in Norma.
Set during the Roman occupation of Gaul, Norma is a Druid High Priestess which has a secret affair and two children with the Roman Proconsul, Pollione, before the opera starts. Amid cries of violence and war from the people the commands, Norma’s hesitance to declare war on the Romans is masked by her desire to regain Pollione’s affections, which have now focused their attention to a young Druid priestess, Adalgisa. The ensuing chaos of a passionate love triangle amid a war-torn people culminates in a tragic and powerful finale.
Regarded as one of the most demanding roles in opera, the title role of Norma was perfectly executed by South African soprano Elza van den Heever. She delivers a performance nothing short of stunning, naturally conveying Norma’s power, anger, heartbreak, and fragility. Her performance in arias and duets is superb, but the female duets featuring Norma and Adalgisa were the highlights of the opera.
The Romeo in residence, Pollione, is sung by South Korean tenor Yonghoon Lee He, delivering a performance to match the intensity of van den Heever (not an easy task). Recently making his debut at the Metropolitan Opera, He’s voice fills up the theatre as much as his imposing presence fills up the stage.
Soprano Marina Costa-Jackson’s Adalgisa is as innocent as she is torn between love and duty. Costa-Jackson’s voice is a beautiful contrast to van den Heever in the duets, the young priestess more delicate and naïve to the powerful Norma.
Bass-baritone Christian Van Horn portrays Norma’s father, the Druid High Priest Oroveso, his booming voice and commanding presence fitting for the role. Supporting roles of Clotilde and Flavio are portrayed by soprano Mithra Mastropierro and tenor Charles Karanja, both delivering excellent performances.
Music director and conductor Emmanuel Villaume truly brought the opera to life and maintained the perfect tempo while working with the expressiveness of the vocals.
Lighting director Thomas C. Hase created incredible effects, most scenes were reminiscent of Renaissance paintings and a joy to see. The set and costumes, designed by John Conklin, placed the opera into a nondescript ancient era, Roman uniforms and statuesque grey tunics galore. Director Nic Muni lead natural scene transitions on the static stage, adding movement to the drama without inducing chaos.
I wholeheartedly enjoyed Norma, and I will be seeing it a second time at one of the upcoming performances. I hope to see you there! If you already went, what did you think?