Norma is a tragic Italian bel cantoopera in two acts by Vincenzo Bellini with libretto by Felice Romani. Intensely romantic and dramatically compelling it was first produced in 1831 and gave us one of the greatest bel canto arias of the nineteenth century “Casta diva.”
The story is set in occupied Ancient Gaul. Norma (American soprano Angela Meade) is the daughter of a Druid high priest who has fallen in love with the Roman proconsul in Gaul, Pollione (Puerto Rican tenor Rafael Davila). Although forbidden she gives up her vow of chastity and bores him two children. Pollione, for his part, has taken up with another druid Adalgisa (American mezzo-soprano Dolora Zajick).
Enraged Norma threatens to kill the children; however she can’t bring herself to do it. She goes to the Druids and calls them to proclaim war against the Romans.
Pollione is captured trying to enter the temple to claim Adalgisa. The penalty of course is death. In deep sadness, she reveals she has had children by Pollione. She gives them to her father for care and decides to take Pollione’s place in the sacrifice. Seeing this act of selflessness, Pollione decides to join Norma, proclaiming his re-kindled love for her. Norma and Pollione are joined to each other in death.
As to the production I found Meade’s voice to have an amazing purity and control in “Casta Diva.” The quality lulls the listener into a peaceful frame of mind which I believe was Bellini’s original purpose. The character of Norma is against war partly because of her love for the Roman Pollione. “Casta Diva” is a passionate call for peace, a romantic aria addressed to a chaste goddess.
Although Norma is an opera where the women characters are portrayed as strong, Davila’s eloquent portrayal of the fickle general was equally splendid and complex. His voice was full of seductive sweetness, power and intensity; possessing a heroic lyrical quality. I have included a clip of Davila from Tosca. This is one tenor that is going places.
My only disappointment was in the scenery which to me seemed a bit modernistic but don’t take my word judge for yourself.
Carmen Ileana Román writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com.