The priestess Norma loves Pollione, leader of the occupying force suppressing her people, and has borne two children by him. But Pollione’s love has withered, and he now loves Norma’s fellow priestess Adalgisa. Meanwhile, the people urgently look to Norma to lead their rebellion.
Norma discovers the love between Pollione and Adalgisa. Furiously she gives the signal for war. Pollione is captured, attempting to steal away with Adalgisa. Norma, called upon to announce a sacrificial victim to consecrate the uprising, declares it shall be a guilty priestess: herself.
Bellini’s bel canto masterpiece Norma had its premiere at La Scala, Milan, on Boxing Day 1831. After a muted initial response the opera quickly became popular, and is now a mainstay of the repertory. Norma is perhaps most acclaimed as a vehicle for the lead soprano, and indeed Bellini provides some astonishing vocal fireworks for his title character – most famously ‘Casta diva’, Norma’s Act I hymn to the chaste moon, and Act II’s ‘Dormono entrambi’, as she contemplates the unthinkable act of killing her children. But the opera’s dramatic potency rests in its breathtaking ensembles, most strikingly in Norma’s duets with Pollione and Adalgisa, the Act I trio ‘Vanne, sì: mi lascia, indegno’ and the blistering Act II finale.
This new production of Norma is The Royal Opera’s first in nearly thirty years. Directing is Àlex Ollé, of the Catalan collective La Fura dels Baus, reunited with the creative team behind his acclaimed production of Oedipe. They give Norma a contemporary setting against a backdrop of a cruel civil war, and focus on the opera’s exploration of the conflict between an individual’s own desires and those of her society – and of religion as a force for unity and for destruction.
Ticket Price: Adults £12.50 | 15 and under £7.50
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