Monday 9 October 2017

Baffling and emotionally constipated: Bellini's Norma from the Met in HD

Bellini: Norma - Metropolitan Opera, New York
Bellini: Norma - Metropolitan Opera, New York
Bellini Norma; Sondra Radvanovsky, Joyce DiDonato, Joseph Calleja, dir: David McVicar, cond: Carlo Rizzi: Met Live in HD
Reviewed by Anthony Evans on Oct 7 2017 Star rating: 3.0
Good on paper, a strong cast gives uneven results in Bellini's classic

On paper the Metropolitan Opera’s starry Norma with Sonya Radvanovsky as the titular heroine, Joyce DiDonato and Joseph Calleja as Adalgisa and Pollione directed by David McVicar & conducted by Carlo Rizzi, should have been an opera junkie’s heaven - the subterranean denizens of Screen One at the Barbican (7 October 2017) were all a twitter.

Norma is a psychologically complex and, dare I say, implausible story of a druid high priestess who has risen to the very top of society. Her awe inspiring authority spawning loyalty and devotion but she is caught between the competing desires of fidelity to her oath or to the father of her children. In general, operatic plausibility is an oxymoron but pragmatically speaking we still need to be convinced of a story’s dramatic verisimilitude however improbable and David McVicar’s interpretation just didn’t do it for me.

There was plenty to admire in this patchy interpretation, just not enough to make a dramatically satisfying whole. As a corollary this was not, at least in part, down to the production. For the large part of Act 1 the singers were over mic’d which mitigated any vocal nuance there might have been. The dynamic contrast in the cinema ran the complete gamut from forte to fortissimo and at points reduced the orchestra to little more than a metronome. This is all the more aggravating as Carlo Rizzi’s potent and elegant reading of the Sinfonia held so much promise. That aside, visually the austere naturalistic aesthetic looked handsome and atmospheric.
Clearing her throat at the start Miss Radvanovsky, now preoccupied, sounded vulnerable. Trying to husband her resources her coloratura was muddy and imprecise. A safe, rather than awe inspiring paen to the moon Norma sounded beaten before we’d even got going. By Act 2 her voice seemed to have settled but I simply wasn’t convinced by “Dormono entrambi and the aria “Teneri, teneri figli” – no Medea she. But the duets with Adalgisa, the evening’s musical highlight, were intense and even sensual. Such was the concentration I thought they’d end in lip lock – there’s a subtext I’d not thought of. If I’d been them I’d have cut and run because what they saw in this Pollione is anyone’s guess.

Pollione, as evinced by Joeseph Calleja, was a narcissistic 24 carat shit. Despite his trademark, and effortless, silvery tone he looked antipathetic to this particular interpretation and his Damascene conversion felt wholly improbable. As Adalgisa on the other hand, Joyce Didonato gave an elegantly phrased and beautifully nuanced performance, full of youthful naivety and earnest fidelity.

The audience’s response was ecstatic which made me feel like a curmudgeon. Maybe if the sound had been better I wouldn’t have been quite so disappointed.
Reviewed by Anthony Evans

Bellini: Norma
Saturday 7 October 2017
Met Opera Live
Barbican Screen One
Norma : Sondra Radvanovsky
Adalgisa : Joyce Didonato
Pollione : Joseph Calleja
Oroveso : Matthew Rose
Conductor : Carlo Rizzi
Director : Sir David McVicar

Elsewhere on this blog:

No comments:

Post a Comment

Popular Posts this month