War, Slaughter, and Death: Norma at the SF War Memorial Opera House

7:30 p.m. 9/19/14

Russel Thomas replaced Marco Berti, singing the role of Pollione.

Oroveso: Christian Van Horn
Pollione: Russel Thomas
Flavio: A.J. Gleukert
Norma: Sondra Radvanovsky
Adalgisa: Jamie Barton
Clotilde: Jacqueline Piccolino
Norma's children: Oliver Kuntz and Miles Sperske
Conductor: Nicola Luisotti

A few minutes ago I read the director's notes on Norma and can see what Kevin Newbury is saying. Newbury writes,

"Her rumination about whether or not to kill her own children envisions both a Medea-like act of revenge and an act of protection from the violent world she knows awaits them."

This was definitely a "Medea-like" way of avenging her own pain through her children. Norma, however, had more motherly love and less devotedness to her man than Medea, sparing her children their lives. She understood that murdering her own children would not only hurt Pollione but also ram that dagger sticking out of her heart even deeper inside. Pollione and she die together, leaving the children orphans.

Jumping away from the director's notes, the program included a quote from Rossini on Bellini's Norma. 

"The words are so enmeshed in the notes and the notes in the words that together they form a complete and perfect whole."

I want to add that not only did the notes and words blend in together wonderfully, but also the roles. When Norma and Adalgisa meet the very first time on stage, Adalgisa tells Norma of her love (without specifying the guy's name). As she describes her feelings to Norma, Norma compares Adalgisa's emotions to her own when she fell in love with Pollione. The only problem is that they're both thinking of the same guy without realizing it. The way the two parts are almost mixed in together, although not necessarily singing together, Bellini makes it so that we understand the twisted position the two women are in.

Sondra Radvanovsky surprised everyone with her sudden diminuendos, creating more tension over the one already created by the music.

Christian Van Horn had a warm tone with which he contrasted beautifully to the tenors in the men's choir.

Jamie Barton's rich voice rung over the orchestra in a wave of passion.

Russel Thomas was a worthy replacement to Marco Berti. I only thought that he didn't have enough...eh, how should I say it...divaness? I do believe that he is a diva-to-be.


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