Opera in 2 acts by Vincenzo Bellini (1801 – 1835)
Libretto by Felice Romani after Norma, ou L'infanticide by Alexandre Soumet.
First performed at La Scala, Milan on 26th December 1831.
Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma (1831) is without doubt one of the great bel canto operas. Set in ancient Gaul, it tells the story of a druid high-priestess who is driven to desperate measures by the betrayal of her lover Pollione, a Roman officer, with a young priestess, Adalgisa. Norma features the hallmarks of Bellini’s mature style – beautiful long, flowing melodic lines, and thrilling displays of vocal agility - here accompanied by uniquely powerful moments of vocal declamation. Norma’s entrance aria, “Casta Diva”, is usually celebrated as the ultimate example of bel canto lyricism, but perhaps even more powerful are the magnificent final scenes of the opera, that prompted Alfred Einstein to write that “no one knows what music is who does not come away from Norma filled to overflowing with the last pages of this act”.
Premiered at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala with legendary soprano Giuditta Pasta in the title role, Norma has attracted many of the greatest singers of the twentieth century. Maria Callas, Joan Sutherland and Montserrat Caballé all made a speciality of it, and the demands of the role make it an extraordinary showcase for a gifted soprano. More than just vocal fireworks, however, Norma is also thrilling drama – a supreme example of Bellini’s power to create unforgettable theatre through the fusion of music and words.
© Ditlev Rindom