NORMA by Vincenzo Bellini is this year’s BIG EIF production.
Written by Vincenzo Bellini in the early nineteenth century, NORMA was set in Gaul where Druid resistance to the occupying Roman army was led and dictated by the High Priestess, Norma. Cue 2016 and we’re morphed into the second world war and German occupation of France. I didn’t really take to this.
Much of the human drama of Bellini’s NORMA is universal and timeless. It doesn’t matter whether we’re in Gaul or France because a wronged woman is a lethal enemy to make in either time-frame. However, there were issues. The scene where NORMA collects all the mistletoe her followers have secreted about their persons would work so much better if the actors were in robes than in 1940s dress. The dramatic climax where her betrayed followers set alight a pyre made of school classroom furniture is saved only by the chorus member who is determinedly snipping off NORMA’s hair. It was a chilling reminder of they way the French treated women identified as collaborators.
All of these issues apart, what of the music – the singers, the period instruments and the chorus?
I enjoyed all of the soloists and don’t have enough technical knowledge to get involved in the arguments about whether a mezzo-soprano should sing a soprano role and so on. I also enjoyed the chorus. Some critics have found them understated. I thought they sounded really good and they were also acting a community under oppression. Would they be loud and joyful – it’s not as if the audience couldn’t hear them.
The I Barrochisti period instrument ensemble’s regular conductor was indisposed and the chorus master, Gianluca Capuano, stepped in to conduct. An excellent job in the circumstances.
Tonight’s off-stage entertainment was provided by the huge number of people we knew in and around our seats. Congrats to the 4 chaps who arrived last and departed first. Hope you made the 10.30 show, wherever it was.
Supposing you’ve read one of my historical romances, I’d love a review. August is ‘leave an author a review’ month. Did you know/ Here’s my collection.