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Your Reaction: What did you think of Bellini's Norma?

Àlex Ollé's new Royal Opera production opens the 2016/17 Season.

By Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media)

13 September 2016 at 11.02am | 55 Comments

Press reviews:
Bachtrack ★★★★
Evening Standard ★★★★
Express ★★★★
Music OMH ★★★ ½
Times (£) ★★★
The Arts Desk ★★★
Guardian ★★★
The Stage ★★★
Telegraph ★★★
iNews ★★★
WhatsOnStage ★★★
Financial Times ★★★
Independent ★★★

What did you think of Norma?
Let us know via the comments below.

Norma runs until 8 October 2016. A limited number of tickets are still available.

The production will be relayed live to cinemas on 26 September 2016. Find your nearest cinema and sign up to our mailing list.

By Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media)

13 September 2016 at 11.02am

This article has been categorised Opera and tagged by Àlex Ollé, Joseph Calleja, Norma, Production, review, Social Media, Sonya Yoncheva, twitter, your reaction

This article has 55 comments

  1. Borech responded on 13 September 2016 at 11:29am Reply

    Brilliantly sung and played, on the First Night.
    The sets looked interesting but the Catholic concept clashed with the Druid practices ( human sacrifice etc) and made no sense.
    .At least there wasn't an inauthentic rape or miscarriage interpolated, unlike Willam Tell and Lucia, last season !

  2. A non-radical, attractively lit but poorly stage-directed production that was nevertheless strongly booed on opening night. The singing was decidedly mixed - an awful night for Brindley Sherratt who barked and wobbled the first act, and Ganassi is past her prime. Some extraordinary singing from Yoncheva but also evidence of a voice pushed beyond its limits - the top is already sounding raw and edgy. Calleja as bland as ever. Pappano on top form - fantastic to have Norma back at Covent Garden!

  3. Kevin B responded on 13 September 2016 at 11:48am Reply

    One of those 'I was there!' nights at ROH last night. The singing and acting were wonderful and the orchestra and chorus were superb.

    Yoncheva, Calleja and Ganassi performed their roles perfectly and with great passion and precision.

    As for the production, it was a great theatrical presentation and an immense relief after the recent disappoinments.

    When I saw the massive crown of thorns and the giant thurible I thought 'this is a bit over the top' and then I thought 'relax, it's opera. It's suppposed to be OTT'. And I was impressed by the fact that the pendulum's period matched the tempo of the music.

    My only quibble is the ending. For me, Norma and Pollione should go to their deaths voluntarily and holding hands, not be murdered separately. In my mind, the ending should be about reconciliation and redemption, not punishment and revenge. I can see what the director was trying to achieve, but for me this ending slightly took the edge of an otherwise thoroughly entertaining production.

    But that said, it really was a great night in the theatre.

  4. Alex DeVille responded on 13 September 2016 at 2:18pm Reply

    I would really like to see the ROH produce some classic productions instead of forever trying to modernise and shock. Many people find these new productions jar and are not as good as some of the classic productions.

  5. Bernard Danson responded on 13 September 2016 at 3:08pm Reply

    The singing was beautiful, wonderful, awe-inspiring.

    The staging was so perverse, so incongruous, as to interfere with appreciation of the opera.

  6. penelope simpson responded on 13 September 2016 at 8:50pm Reply

    My first Norma and much to admire. I liked the setting although I thought the stage direction over-complicated at times and somewhat muddled. Yoncheva was excellent but I agree, it did seem to be a strain. Calleja blew me away with his stage presence but Ganassi was wrong, wrong, wrong for the role. Yes, her singing was faultless but nobody could imagine her as the woman Calleja abandoned a beautiful mistress for. She was hunched up all the time and for all the world looked like Mrs. Overall so totally unconvincing.

    I need to digest what I saw but I would happily go again. It is a huge opera and this was a big night.

  7. Geoff responded on 13 September 2016 at 8:58pm Reply

    Well, I liked it. The main three could sing it (which is not always the case); faux comparisons with Callas are ridiculous (this was Yoncheva's first night EVER singing this immensly difficult part live); the stage looked fantastic; the director's ideas were yawningly simple-minded (and Catholic flavoured either because he is unimaginatively Spanish or because he didn't have the courage to tackle Islamic state power); but the handling of the cast and chorus was effective and often moving. Hope it's a big hit, it deserves to be.

  8. francois responded on 13 September 2016 at 9:40pm Reply

    I found the production very clever (apart from the anecdotic and incongruous sitting-room which starts the 2nd act). Sets are spectacular and beautifully lighted.
    Sonya Yoncheva and Joseph Calleja really stole the show with amazing performances, and the chorus was glorious.
    But perhaps the best of the evening came from Sir Tony Pappano's conducting, probably the best interpretation of Norma's score I've ever heard in more than 40 years. It was so subtle, so romantic, he managed to make the orchestra play stratospheric pianissimi and he beautifully phrased the counterpoint of the singing. For me his interpretation of Bellini's score may probably enter the legend if the cinema relay is to be later sold as a DVD. Globally I more than enjoyed the performance, I loved it!

  9. Michael responded on 14 September 2016 at 2:01am Reply

    Sonya Yoncheva was absolutely amazing in her debut as Norma. To be able to deliver such a powerful performance in one of the most demanding role in opera on a first night is a "tour de force ". She prooved without a doubt that she has what it takes to become one of the great Norma's of her generation.
    Love the sets. Visually stunning.
    Overall really enjoyed the staging.
    But was it absolutely necessary to have one of Norma's children bouncing on a ball during the wonderful duet "Mira o Norma". It is absolutely useless and completely detracts from one of the most beautiful musical moment of the opera.

    • francois responded on 14 September 2016 at 12:23pm

      Agree with you regarding the children boucing, that should urgently be corrected before the cinema relay, it is a big mistake, both theatrically and musically, as it happens at what should be the climax of the evening (and in fact on Monday night that climax did not happen because of that stupid idea)

  10. Tim Walton responded on 14 September 2016 at 12:05pm Reply

    Great evening musically. I've heard Caballe and Verrett sing Norma at CG and Sonya Yoncheva was just as good.

    Production was OK, only a few quibbles and far better than some recent rubbish that has been inflicted on us.

  11. Martin Spiro responded on 15 September 2016 at 10:37am Reply

    Enjoyed the performances and production.
    Never understood how a high priestess could conceal two pregnancies from family and colleagues. Also the original legend/history is in fact BC making the multiple crucifixes in this production somewhat anachronistic even if one accepts the mixture of ancient and modern.

  12. Martin Dodsworth responded on 15 September 2016 at 7:13pm Reply

    Just one totally fundamental flaw which made the Norma as a fanatical Catholic complete nonsense, hardline Catholics do not believe in women priests. The concept was just a boring extension of a Spaniard's hang ups with his religion which does not translate to the UK

  13. Nelson jones responded on 15 September 2016 at 9:22pm Reply

    I'm going to see it next month and I'm dreading the space hopper already.

  14. Jean Cox responded on 16 September 2016 at 11:13am Reply

    Disappointing performance, mostly due to the weird and ambiguous sets and design and modern costume. The mixture of religion was confusing and not true to the story, and the scene with children in the nursery was awful. We found it very distracting from the duet. Norma had a lovely voice but her acting was stiff and her singing rather bland.

  15. Barrington Smythe responded on 16 September 2016 at 11:49pm Reply

    Fresh out of the theatre and trying to work out if I loved it or hated it. Probably a bit of both...

    Sonya Yoncheva gave a stunning vocal performance - as we are becoming accustomed to with this huge talent - and Calleja's voice was richer and more emotive than I have ever heard it before. Pollione suits him perfectly. Tony had a blinder in the pit too - top work

    Some of the production worked beautifully, and I really do get the intent to make a statement relevant to the world we live in today (although some of the imagery was a bit ham-fisted)

    Was a bit bemused by the distracting staging through Casta Diva, and wondered if I had wandered into a Miley Cyrus video. Was Sonya going to belt out "Wrecking Ball" or something? The pre-meditated rolling out of plastic sheeting in the nursery - for me - turned Norma from a woman driven by her conflicting emotions to a cold-blooded psychopath

    And the ending. Well. No spoilers, but REALLY?? Similar emotions to the not-end of the Bolshoi's Swan Lake last season. A lot of fabulous build up, but a damp squib in my book, even if the final lighting was exquisite

    Musically fabulous but a production that tries too hard for me I think - too often hiding that tremendous character study behind visual gimmickry and constraining set pieces

    Last word to the undeniable star - I look forward to the day Sonya Yoncheva adds Tosca to her repertoire, and I dearly hope it will debut at the ROH

  16. Michael responded on 17 September 2016 at 3:02am Reply

    If most of you would take the time to watch the conference of Maestro Pappano and his interview with Alex Olé you would know that the director wanted to create a generic religion to show how any kind of religion excess can have on people and their families.
    Althouh very much inspired by the Catholic church both crosses and costumes are not actually identical to the Catholic Church.
    The are very close but not the same.
    So in a generic religion yes Norma could be a priest.
    To say that Sonya Yoncheva's singing was bland is just incredible. This is one of most difficult role of the entire repertoire and I think Sonya Yoncheva did a fabulous performance on opening night. This is still a "work in progress" and she will gain assurance with time but she delivered a very strong performance.
    It is just great to have Norma back at the ROH.
    Hopefully we will get a revival soon .
    Yes the production is not perfect but visually it is beautiful .

  17. Bill Worley responded on 17 September 2016 at 7:51am Reply

    Another load a rubbish both musically and dramatically. People have already commented about the space hopper. Mira O Norma should bring the House down. On Tuesday night it was greeted with polite applause, if that.. The space hopper contributed to this but it was also badly sung and very badly conducted. A dull evening,

    I do agree with the earlier comment about allowing us to see an opera as the composer and librettist attended.

  18. Michael de Navarro responded on 17 September 2016 at 8:15am Reply

    I went last night. After 55 years of opera going at last I have seen and heard a good Norma (I was too young to see Callas, but I have seen a number of singers with great reputations fall short of the demands of this great role). I refrain from using the word great because Yoncheeva will get better still, but all the attributes are already there, long lines constantly moving forward and an ability to colour the voice to express the drama - and it is an attractive voice, she looks great on stage and can really act. Terrific - as was the conducting, choral singing and Calleja. Unlike some I liked the production, which to my mind was giving an effective modern meaning to the piece and better than putting it into pre-history. Overall a very fine rendition of what despite its occasional musical banalities is a great piece. Thank you

    • Annie responded on 7 October 2016 at 12:23pm

      Saw the performance on 4 October and totally agree with these comments. Singing and playing were simply sensational, loved the contrast between soprano and mezzo (not always instantly distinguishable), thought the set was beautiful, no problem with the bouncy child who for me made the mother's anguish even sadder. More like this, please!

  19. Coppelia responded on 17 September 2016 at 5:29pm Reply

    It worked for me. Sonya Yoncheva did a fantastic job of making her character relatable and delivered a transcendent Casta Diva. I wanted to hate Pollione more but Joseph Calleja is just too lovely and golden voiced to truly despise. (I may have just been too distant from the stage to pick up on his acting though). Really enjoyed Brindley Sherratt's singing as Oroveso, and the father-daughter relationship was well depicted. ROHChorus awesome as usual. The shock ending is inspired. Looking foward to seeing it again in the cinema

  20. Amanda responded on 17 September 2016 at 6:25pm Reply

    I saw the dress rehearsal (I'm a Friends Plus supporter, but this was my first rehearsal). The clicking of the camera was very distracting - surely there must be some way to reduce that noise - but otherwise it had the feel of a real performance.

    Agree with all the other commentators - the singing and acting were fabulous, and I personally enjoyed seeing such strong female leads.

    However, removing the opera from its intended Druidic/Roman setting fatally harms it. I'm all in favour of innovation and edginess...but it should add to a production, not take away from it. This opera has the scale and feel of an Ancient Greek tragedy. What was the supposed gain in translating it to some sort of (1950s?) Catholicism?

    Also, from a pragmatic point of view, it was impossible to see anything under the canopy during the oddly located living room scene. No space hopper for us.

  21. Daniele responded on 18 September 2016 at 11:01am Reply

    I'll be there on october 4th, just in time to see and hear how this production has been worked on. I can't wait to attend this Norma, because I think there will be many reasons to be satisfied. Most of all, I am curious about Pappano's conduction, as I saw the video.
    To Michael: thank you for your passionate comment, as always. Let me know if you'll be there on 4th. It would be nice to meet!
    Anyway, thank you, ROH!

  22. Ann Gravina responded on 18 September 2016 at 5:05pm Reply

    The music triumphed despite the production. What unerring instinct allowed the producer to introduce the most distracting pieces of staging during the most wonderful music; the incense-burner pendulum during "Casta diva" and the space-hopper during the second act duets between Norma and Adalgisa.

  23. Juliet Chaplin responded on 18 September 2016 at 10:35pm Reply

    Wonderful singing and playing; not just the soloists but the chorus as usual was excellent. Pity about the production particularly the ending which spoiled it. Yet another producer who thinks he knows better than the composer. Throw out the space-hopper and the bike! I found the three leading singers fitted well together and particularly Sonya and Sonia in their duetting sounded marvellous.

  24. Dorothy responded on 19 September 2016 at 1:01pm Reply

    I loved it! I have been waiting to see Norma for years and I wasn't disappointed. Yes, some of the imagery was confusing and at odds with the original story but I thought it was a sizzling production and visually engaging. I loved the chorus, the orchestra and on the whole the main parts were sung beautifully. The great test for me was that it is such a long opera with only one interval but I was totally engrossed all the way through. Thank you.

  25. Roman Wong responded on 20 September 2016 at 6:34am Reply

    The cast and their performance were absolutely gorgeous. Especially Yoncheva - a total delight. However, the timing, setting, costume, etc., honestly, were quite a disappointment. The bedroom scene in which Norma laid a plastic sheet on the floor for the preparation was unnecessary and quite distasteful.

  26. Susan Nisbet responded on 20 September 2016 at 10:57am Reply

    I was very disappointed with this production. The orchestra and chorus were wonderful and I loved Calleja's voice. The ensembles were beautiful and vocally very well matched. Hated the production. I loved Oedipe but the directors' approach to Norma didn't work for me. Why were their crucifixes all over the set and klu klux klan costumes?? I much preferred the ENO production. But the music was divine.

  27. Edwin Gruber responded on 20 September 2016 at 11:42pm Reply

    After experiencing the new production of Norma for the third time today (dress rehearsal and 2 performances), my admiration and appreciation of the production is still rising. Musically, it is excellent - the orchestra under Maestro Pappano, Sonya Yoncheva and Joseph Calleja are outstanding - and the production is incredibly powerful and moving at the same time. Critics and other reviewers point out that a female in a position of power (Norma) in an authoritarian religious setting is not realistic, or that Islamic State should have been depicted rather than Christianity, but I think those interpretations are missing a central point: The key image of the production, the symbol of the cross, a symbol of sacrifice, of compassion and redemption, and thus ultimately a symbol of peace, is used to build (literally) the power structure of the staging. To me this shows in a most effective and evocative way that a religion (any religion) that allies itself to (political) power has lost its way and has become dangerous, as its central tenets of love and compassion get lost. We do not need to look at Islamic State to see this pernicious and fanatical power of religion; the history of Christianity can provide us with many examples, too.
    Set into this context, the moral struggles of Norma become ultimately human struggles in a world where social, political and religious conventions have become the deciding factors. This is how the production, as well as the immense emotional power of the music and the excellence of the performers, give us an emotionally charged and powerful evening.
    I hope one previous reviewer is right: that this production will become a classic. To my mind it would fully deserve it.

  28. Peter Stephen responded on 21 September 2016 at 2:26am Reply

    Norma 20/09/16
    Here we go again. Wonderful singing and a woefully distracting production. I resent having that kid's video playing as I was trying to listen to the singing. Why put Druids in a church? It was meaningless and pointless even if it was meant to be a transferred interpretation. I only worked that out on the way home. Is it just me?

    • Marcus responded on 28 September 2016 at 10:31pm

      I entirely agree with you. The recent ROH productions of bel canto operas have been utter trash - overpaid directors and designers allowed to impose their own distorted views and scenarios on to great works. After the travesty of Maria Stuarda I thought no production could be worse - I was wrong. Ultimately the blame must rest with Kasper Holten who so often bleats his mantra 'we must have experimental productions'. I have stopped going to new productions at ROH. The failure rate is far too high!

  29. John Rose responded on 21 September 2016 at 2:26pm Reply

    My wife and I were both riveted. A powerful production with musical interpretation to match. After over 50 years of opera going at ROH, it;s interesting how little Bellini we've witnessed... What I do know is that in the wrong hands it could be made to sound anaemic...and this was never going to be the case here.

    However there is one health warning I feel obliged to pass on:....: to any practising Catholic, this performance could be seen as utterly blasphemous,regardless of what the show's adherents may argue..

    • Brigid Donald responded on 28 September 2016 at 7:03pm

      Saw this at our local cinema; riveted by the quality of the singing and the glorious interpretation of the score. However, as a practicing Christian, the setting felt both blasphemous and viscerally-disturbing. It was however also deeply thought-provoking about the nature of religion. I wonder how a practicing Catholic would feel about it?

  30. Michael responded on 22 September 2016 at 2:33am Reply

    I have now attended 2 performances of Norma. Opening night and on the 20th.
    It is Interesting to see how so many of us have extremely different point of views . I myself enjoyed this production very much and respect the opinion of those of you who did not.
    But let's go back to the most important aspect of all of this : the music and the singing.
    After seeing Sonya Yoncheva perform twice there is no doubt in my mind that we are witnessing the birth of one of the great Norma of this new young generation of singers.
    Vocally solid and with an extremely strong stage presence she brings to this role something new and different. She brings her onw personnality, she brings who she is as an artist, as a singer and as an actrice.
    Let's not compare her to the 2 or 3 great Norma of the last century and enjoy the gift that this great soprano is offering the British public.
    We can debate and argue on the validity of having crosses and priests and space-hopper but let us take the time to enjoy what we are witnessing these days at the ROH : the wonderful talent of a great soprano.
    I had the great opportunity to attend "Otello" last year at the MET ans was deeply impressed by her Desdemona.
    In my very humble opinion Sonya Yoncheva is now without a doubt part of that very short list of the top 5 sopranos in the world.
    I also know that the ROH is always extremely greatful to singers who come in as a replacement and deliver such a strong performance.
    I know that we will have the opportunity to see her often in the years to come.
    I must also mention the quality of Calleja's Pollione and Sonia Ganassi's Adalgisa and the wonderful conducting of maestro Pappano.
    Music, singing and drama..isn't that what opera is all about ? And that is exactly what these 3 great artists are offering us in this wonderful Norma.
    May we have many revival in the years to come.

  31. Ti Eidsch responded on 23 September 2016 at 7:27pm Reply

    Thought about going to the movie theatre on monday and see "Norma", one of my fav operas, but as I read it, the production is to modern again. So I stay at home and listen to some good Normas on CD instead. Thx!

  32. Malcolm Fawcett responded on 26 September 2016 at 6:05pm Reply

    Major mistake maybe seeing LA Bartoli in NORMA in Edinburgh and this one so soon!! NONE of the Drama or understanding(vocally and dranatically) here by Yoncheva fabulously displayed by Bartoli! Merely a work in progresswhich should not be at Covent Garden!
    Were Radvanovsky/Meade Devia not available??
    Worrying hintsof strain which undid the meteor Elena Souliotis!
    Ganasi woefully over parted
    Hurrah for Calleja and Pappano!!

    • Jenifer logan responded on 27 September 2016 at 1:02am

      This evenings performance was, for me, the curates egg, but Yoncheva's performance was not. Every performance is a work in progress,each audience brings something new from the artist. Your crit. Would have been confusing if not for the mention of Bartoli, they are very different singers, and for Yoncheva's sake, i am glad. Enough said.

  33. Marcus responded on 26 September 2016 at 9:13pm Reply

    Another ROH bel canto travesty. Utterly incongruous production that is actually rather boring. Was an opera based on The Da Vinci Code planned but somehow Norma is performed instead. Thank goodness the inept Kasper Holten is leaving soon. He has been responsible for too many failures on the ROH stage.

    • maire responded on 5 October 2016 at 11:14pm

      Agree that the departure of Kasper is not unwelcome at all.
      Agree with reservations about many aspects of the production (the TV and space hopper during O Mira Norma was genuinely a disaster).
      But the singing and playing were enough to overcome far worse production values.
      Fabulous experience.

  34. Steve Freeman responded on 27 September 2016 at 12:29am Reply

    Top class musically, but another failed concept. It seems that the only religion the Spanish can think of is a full Catholic Easter. This was supposed to be an oppressed local people trying to break free from "Rome" (remember, this is really Lombardy under the Austrians), but we had priests and Spanish generals. On those moments when they got down to real singing, the direction could be pretty good. And then the insensitivity of finishing with a burning cross...

  35. Teresa Gonçalves responded on 27 September 2016 at 11:03am Reply

    I saw Norma yesterday, 26, in a cinema in Lisbon. It still is in my head....
    Sonya is a great, great singer and actress. Everyone was good but sincerely she is the best in the cast. Pappano is a great conductor and a man who feels what is doing.
    But I didn't like the scenario, I'm so sorry but for the eyes it was very, very ugly.
    Anyway the opportunity of seeing the production in the cinema was great! Thank you very much.

  36. Richard Philpott responded on 28 September 2016 at 1:15pm Reply

    Please give La Fura dels Baus a rest. Oedipe was already enough; Norma too much.
    They appear to be stuck in a Franco-Spanish time warp. I wouldn't mind the production being dated and out-moded, but clichéd and tiresome? Add to this the lack of dramatic understanding to the point of destroying the drama of the piece and we have a near disaster rescued only by brilliant singing and superb orchestral performance under Tony Pappano (thank you!).
    The swinging incense burner during 'Casta diva' was an unforgivable stupidity serving only to undermine the aria and our attention to it. It wasn't even well done (unlike Chereau's brilliant pendulum in the centennial Bayreuth Walküre), losing momentum (to no effect) and flagging just as their production did overall. And I don't even mention the ridiculous direction that required singing to the back or side of the stage, requiring some silly manoeuvres by unfortunate singers, nor the banal costumes replete with machine guns - as ever. Yawn.
    Poverty of imagination and lack of understanding of opera characterises La Fura dels Baus and yet the programme is full of them (again) as if they were the stars of the show.
    Only the opening scene of Act 2 showed a spark (children playing, TV animation, modern dress, intelligent lighting) but that was quickly snuffed out and the production reverted to type.
    I understand the convenience of ROH taking a production 'package' from them (3 for the price of 2?), but please - look further and lets see the work of the many interesting designers, directors and producers who are working today and all those not lost in the early 1980s.

  37. Richard Philpott responded on 28 September 2016 at 1:17pm Reply

    by Franco- Spanish - I mean Spanish from the Franco era! Not French-Spanish :)

  38. Axel Wilkinson responded on 28 September 2016 at 5:27pm Reply

    This is feedback about the volume of the sound in the cinema (Curzon Canterbury) in which I watched Norma. It was too low, to the point of spoiling it. And I've noticed this before, in two other cinemas. I do treat myself by going to Covent Garden occasionally, so I know that an opera floods the auditorium with sound, rising to waves at those climactic choral moments.

    I am addressing this to you, ROH, because I don't know where the problem lies, the recording, or the broadcast, or the instructions to the cinema staff. Or even, I admit, my old ears. I am just certain that the Norma I heard sounded nothing like (say) the overture to a Star Wars film.

    Given the importance of these cinema broadcasts, would it not be wise to check that the audiences are receiving what they are supposed to hear? By which I mean that you send some people who know what to expect, about a dozen perhaps, to a range of sizes of auditoriums, and listen to the broadcast.
    Axel Wilkinson

    • Noelia Moreno responded on 29 September 2016 at 1:32pm

      Dear Axel,

      Thank you vey much for taking the time to write to us. We're sorry you have experienced volume problems and we are taking these issues into account.

      Best wishes,

      ROH Cinema

  39. Peter Lewis responded on 2 October 2016 at 3:48pm Reply

    I don't like reading reviews and comments (here or on Twitter) before I see a performance in case it clouds my opinion. I went last night and formed my own. The cast was a promising one and certainly there was some wonderful singing from Yoncheva (which is rather crucial in Norma) and Calleja & Gonassi had some superb duets (and a trio) to enjoy. The rest of the cast was adequate if not memorable or good or bad reasons. Norma, like many operas, is a bizarre story but has its basis fairly set in orthodox domestic turmoil or love and fidelity. It must be hard for any director to put a new angle however this wasn't too far away for credibility despite the presence of Catholic symbolism in the weird but clever staging.

  40. Adrienne Katz responded on 3 October 2016 at 5:14pm Reply

    #ROHNorma was stunning visually and glorious vocally. Yoncheva had an imperious quality yet could be tender, but above all her voice was remarkable. Brave production we thought it brilliant and we live in an age where religion and political control still blend into a toxic brew so it really worked. Calleja in fine voice. Ganassi sang so well.

  41. Beverly Wood responded on 4 October 2016 at 9:07pm Reply

    Watched Norma for the first time at the cinema at an Encore performance. What a shame there were only 4 of us there! Thoroughly enjoyed the singing, the music and the drama but, like others, perplexed and confused by the costumes and scenery when I was expecting Druids and dark forests.
    I can't wait to see it again but perhaps a performance without the crucifxes and with Calleja looking more handsome as a clean-shaven Roman in a shiny uniform!!

  42. Paul Murray responded on 8 October 2016 at 10:07am Reply

    Singers and orchestra all characteristically excellent on Tuesday night but Calleja was in especially fine voice. I have to admit that the scene with the little girl bouncing about on the space hopper (which I didn't know about before attending) almost made me hoot out loud with laughter. But I can forgive La Fura dels Baus for this given how impressed I was by that jaw dropping opening scene in their production of Oedipe last season.

  43. Roger Taylor responded on 8 October 2016 at 5:43pm Reply

    We have just been to the final performance of Norma. This is one of the greatest of all bel canto operas, yet unfortunately it is performed relatively infrequently. Sonya Yoncheva's singing was absolutely superb, and made an expert rendition of this very demanding part. She must be well on her way to being recognised as one of the world's greatest Normas. She effectively communicated the psychological conflicts of the character which is such ash important component of this opera. We already knew that Joseph Calleaja was already one of the world's greatest bel canto singers and we were not disappointed. In fact all the leads and chorus were great, and Sonia Ganassi did amazingly well, considering she had a throat infection. Although this was announced after the interval we had not realised this at all during the first act. The duet singing between Norma and Adagisa was impressive. After what had been said about the production we were a bit apprehensive, but it was visually stunning and the translation to modern times worked very well, considering the timelessness of the themes. I thought that the giant swinging incense censer was a good idea, but a bit distracting considering this was being done during the singing of one of the greatest of all arias. At times, particularly towards the finale of act one, and during much of act two, one could sense the atmosphere in the auditorium, with the audience being riveted buy the musical tension. Pappano is an expert bel canto conductor and with his deep understanding of the meaning of the music with the singers and the orchestra he was able to create an amazing musical atmosphere. I hope that this production returns as soon as possible, with Sonya Yoncheva as Norma again if possible.

    • Roger Taylor responded on 11 October 2016 at 10:55pm

      I was at the 8th October performance. During Sonya Yoncheva singing Casta Diva the audience seemed to be transfixed and you could have heard a pin drop. I believe there was no applause after Casta Diva because of a combination of the audience being so impressed and the fact that this was a prayer. Sonya had a fantastic reception at the end of the performance. Of course Joseph Calleja also had a great reception.

  44. Stephen Ratcliffe responded on 9 October 2016 at 2:42pm Reply

    Saw the last performance on the 8 October. Calleja got more applause than Yoncheva! He was great, she was promising but seemed to be having difficulty at the top. No applause after Casta diva and Mira o Norma fell really flat. Rest of principals really dismal. Production pretty but misconceived

  45. Robert Woodley responded on 30 October 2016 at 1:32am Reply

    Well, having seen and heard Joan Sutherland and various casts, this one leaves a lot to be desired, especially the Adalgisa who cheated on her runs. I know Norma doesn't need the high notes about top C but they do add a sort of thrilling finale to what is a fairly slow opera at first. Some of her exclamations also verged on shrieking. The living room scene is completely misplaced. Only Calleja sang bel canto as previous generations have heard it. Finally if your iconography had been Muslim instead of Catholic, the Royal Opera House would be in cinders by now. Regietheater but not quite brave enough?

  46. Jill Bear responded on 30 October 2016 at 8:24am Reply

    About eight years ago I saw a traditional staging of Norma, in the cinema; from one of the Italian opera houses, I think. The lasting impression I retain from the performance is of an uninspired and static staging, which undermined the tension in the music and the story.
    I'm appreciative, therefore, that this production incorporates opportunities for meaningful engagement between the protagonists, (though, perhaps the space hopper was a step too far).
    The musical performances from singers and orchestra was the most satisfying aspect of the performance, with Yoncheva in top form on this occasion, at least.
    During the first act my mind kept stumbling over the frequent collisions between the Spanish Catholic visual imagery and the libretto. We may not know what Druidic ritual looked like, but I don't think this particular appropriation of Christian symbolism worked. While some have argued that it wasn't quite a Christian sect, the forest of crucifixes contradicted that view. I have seen powerful stagings of Parsifal, where the dead hand of religious ritual for its own sake, has been presented in ways that don't allude to Christian imagery, and been moved to a new appreciation of the universality of the story and how it relates to me. The effect of this production is to anchor Norma in a recognisable world where the anomalies get in the way of a broader appreciation of the problems inherent in following ideologies that deny valid human experience.

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