~ Author: Oberon
Saturday December 16th, 2017 - Having experienced two performances of the Met's new production of Bellini's NORMA from score desks earlier this season, I found myself wanting to actually see the sets and staging. The casting for the remaining performances was not really to my liking, but who knows when NORMA will be back at The Met? So I bought an inexpensive seat for today's matinee, having vowed to myself to stay til the final curtain.
Sondra Radvanovsky opened the current Met season in the premiere of this NORMA production, and she was divine. Soon after, Marina Rebeka appeared in the title-role for two performances: her singing thrilled me. This afternoon, Angela Meade took on the iconic role; my previous encounter with her Norma was not very satisfying.
One advantage this performance had over the Radvanovsky and Rebeka evenings I'd heard earlier in the year was the presence on the podium of Joseph Colaneri. The orchestra sounded great (aside from one blooper) and Maestro Colaneri had the opera well-in-hand. The overture sounded full-bodied and dramatic, whetting my appetite for an exciting afternoon.
Alas, the performance had few redeeming qualities vocally. Matthew Rose as Oroveso offered by far the more secure and distinctive singing of the afternoon. Joseph Calleja (Pollione) had his tendency to sing sharp somewhat under control today, but his top notes were spotty: a good high-C in his aria, and then a limp-away dodge of the customary B-flat at the end of his cabaletta. His best moment came with a delicious piano at "Abbandonarmi così potresti! Abbandonarmi così?"
Jamie Barton did some fine singing as Adalgisa, but she tended to sing it as if it was Azucena: full-force high notes and butched-up chest tones don't sit well in this music (besides, it's really a soprano role). In her duet with Calleja, Barton's interpolation at "...seguir ti voglio..." misfired. Then, in the opera's second scene, the mezzo slid off the highest note in "Ah si, fa core, e abbracciami" as fast as she could, and her coloratura was not always fluent.
The fast flutter in Angela Meade's voice played against her in the "Casta diva", where the decorative fiorature over the chorus lacked definition. In the rapid passage-work of the cabaletta, the notes became a blur because the tone was so diffuse. Meade sounded better in the opera's second scene, but a Norma who doesn't convince vocally in the great opening scena cannot really hope to redeem herself completely. The soprano's best note of the day was a blistering high-D as the Act I curtain fell, but her earlier attacks on high-Cs in "Oh, non tremare, o perfido!" were messy. I cannot imagine her singing Semiramide.
"Come, children...enough meanness for one day..." as Sutherland says in DANCER FROM THE DANCE.
I was already in a bad mood by the time I took my seat today: we were again packed into the area outside the doors to the hall for fifteen minutes while some bullshit was being dealt with. Then, a few moments into the overture, there was a late seating, which is so distracting. Where is Joe Volpe when we need him?
I frankly could not wait to head for the exit as brief applause greeted the finale of Act I. So much for staying til the end.