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I came to this Opera through sort of a back door. I was watching a documentary on Maria Callas. And several times he mentioned that she played Norma. Somehow I had overlooked this Opera so I thought I would catch up. This was the only version that was readily available I thought Norma is Norma is Norma.
I can see now that I made a small mistake. In general I don't like things that are in modern dress. But again I thought normal is Norma was Norma. I waited for them speak when they did I sort of wish they didn't. I have to confess I was using English subtitles. The production never got any better. It just drag on and on and on.
One day I hope to look at a different version and see what it is that Norma that makes it a classic as this version was the drag of all times.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
not what I had expected but in the end - very good!Nov. 8 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
I was unprepared for the presentation and was initially irritated by the opening which brings ancient Rome backstage of a modern opera house. It all looked as if I was in for another of these modern and all too often pretentious productions. (I am generally a traditionalist and prefer to see what the composer would have had in mind). I had not done any home work and had not grasped what the producer was up to. The playing and singing is however exceptional and as the disc progressed I forgot my initial dislike and came to enjoy it more and more. This is an excellent disc, but go to the extras BEFORE you watch the opera. You will then avoid my mistake and be able to follow the production so much better. This is not the traditional Norma but neither is it the dreaded 'dinner suits on an empty stage'. The blend is quite skillful and once one accepts the revised plot the disc can be fully enjoyed. My initial reaction was to send it back, I will now keep it and expect to watch it many times. Get it, it is visually and sonically outstanding.
24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Norma-----------NOT!Jan. 22 2007
- Published on Amazon.com
Avoid this ridiculous "Concept" Norma at all costs, unless you want to plunk down nearly $40.00 for what is the most tired, trite staging of this magnificent opera I have ever seen. Don't the Euro-Trash directors have any new ideas? More of the same old 1950 period costumes with Norma making an entrance dressed like Norma Desmond with a turban and sunglasses, signing autographs for the Druid chorus.The stage business is completely ludicrous, and reduces the magnificent music to a meaningless side show.The cast all have beautiful voices and certainly deserve a better staging than this psuedo-arty nightmare..
Patrick C. Byrne
25 of 31 people found the following review helpful
A terrible concept, yet again!Aug. 31 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
This is that ridiculous Norma dvd from a couple of years ago, yet again. Changing the package, and the technology is not going to make it any better. Another "concept" on a masterpiece. This time we are backstage with the singers, making entrances and exits. None of it makes any sense. Norma makes her first entrance done up like Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard. What has that to do with anyting in the libretto? From there it is downhill. If the singing were great, maybe, but it isn't. Why bother. Get the Caballe Normas from Orange or Barcelona.Magnificent. When I first ordered this mess I played it several times to see if it had some redeeming factors. I sold it online for $10.00.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Disappointing - spoiled by odd mish/mash of costumingOct. 2 2009
Mr. John A. Coulson
- Published on Amazon.com
The mish mash of modern and traditional costuming in this opera is very distracting and spoiled enjoyment of the opera for me. Norma in priestess robe singing to a Roman soldier in a blue striped suit, idiotic and unecessary props like modern kitchen chairs and dressing tables with photos plastered on the mirror, all seem totally unecessary for the plot. One person has sarcastically labelled this all too common trend in modern opera productions as "Eurotrash". Much as I dislike the connotation, I must admit that it applies to this production. A shame because their is some beautiful singing from Hasmic Papian and Irini Tsirakidis although not all support roles were impressive. Another peculiarity, which I noted in a couple of other Blue Ray opera productions, was an uneveness in the volume of the voices at times plus a strange echo which appeared to be in the stage as it disappeared when the curtain dropped. For once I looked at the "extras" before viewing the main event but they failed in preparing me for the odd approach to the opera with the Druits sometimes in casual modern dress but other times dressed up in the sort of religious garb appropriate for the context of the story. In summary, perplexing and confusing. So, overall I cannot fully recommend this disc. Like the curates egg, it is bad in parts and sadly, there are too many of these.
13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Re-interprets Bellini's opera: an insulting stinker of a conceptNov. 6 2006
- Published on Amazon.com
Oh, you're gonna love this one. Let's see here if I can do
justice to this spellbinding mess, and sort out the story
behind the story behind the story, the disaster behind the
disaster within another disaster.
We learn from the opening shots that this production is
going to endeavor to make Bellini's masterpiece "more
interesting." To improve upon it. During the overture, we
see a Pavarotti-type tenor dressed in a faintly 1940s
gangsterish suit come out onto a stage. The stage has black
shiny-mirror-enameled floors, with a huge fallen tree
across it. The tenor positions himself in front of a
dressing-room makeup table with lighted mirror, sets his
crested helmet down, and sits in front of the table. He
pulls out from his bag a Madonna figurine (not the pop
star), kisses it, sets it on the table. He picks up a
magazine, a "Il Mondo Dell Opera," with himself on the
cover, and looks delghtedly through it. He decides to have
some coffee and spills it all over the table, whereby he
cleans it up. A severe-dressed stage assistant smilingly
brings out his gilded six-pack abs breast/torso plate,
along with a dozen roses; they kissy-kissy. He generously
shows her his magazine. She climbs onto his lap and they
start making out. A male figure - director? - comes in,
as she makes her exit. They pantomime chortle to each other
- ooh, that's one hot chick they seem to be saying. The
assistant gives the tenor a newspaper - Il Giornale - the
tenor looks at it anxiously, and slams the paper back,
scratches his forehead anxiously. Another hatted, spiffily
dressed gentlemen - the Oroveso - comes in, sets HIS stuff
down on another dressing table, in front of the tree. The
three commiserate over the newspaper. The Oroveso takes his
score out, sets it on the the fallen tree trunk, and starts
studying it. Overture ends.
The chorus, in their civilian clothes come out, and begin
milling around behind the tree. The Pollione takes his
roses and sets them over at yet another dressing table.
The Oroveso, in full 1940s civilian clothes and overcoat,
lifts his leg up, sets his foot on the fallen tree, places
his score on his knee, and begins singing "Ite sul colle."
Nice, solid tone. The chorus, dressed in dapper civilian
clothes, many with roses in their hands, places them around
the center dressing table. Pollione, as the chorus exits,
reads the cards on the roses, anxious as to who they're
from. The Flavio comes out, in full 1950s Gladiator Gear,
and he and Pollione proceed with their scene. The tenor
sings "Meco all'tar di Venere" with a bright, loud, bugly
tone. The high C kicks in after a slight hiccup. Lots of
extraneous stage business. Just before his cabaletta, the
chorus comes out, and Pollione begins changing into his
costume. One verse of the caba-clatter-etta. Choked high
For Norma's entrance. The chorus, standing behind the tree.
They start clapping, applauding. Flashbulbs go off. A
prima donna figure, complete with shiny silver raincoat,
head-crown-turban, Lana Turner styled sunglasses, fur
stole, comes in, delighted at the reception. Starts signing
autographs. Walks grandly over to her dressing table,
unloads her gear, gets undressed, assistant helps her with
a red Classical Norma gown. Admires her roses.
"Rehearsal" gets under way, with "Sediziose voci." During
Oroveso's interlude, she checks out the dressing table in
which Pollione has placed his red roses (there is a point
here, stay with me). Norma has a pleasing timbre, but her
tremulous singing does not bode well. "Casta diva" is
adequate, no more. The line is loose, not ideally bound,
the top pushed. No real mezza-voce. One verse of the
cabaletta, clumsily sung, the coda trimmed. Converts words
into "ah" for the florid passages. Meantime, a younger
woman has come in, looks imperiously over at the Norma,
sits at the the dressing table with the Pollione-laden red
The younger woman turns out to be the Adalgisa. An
attractive, raven haired Greek woman. In an ingenue-type
dress. Takes costume out of suitcase, places it in front of
her. Steps cautiously to the front of the stage, and
pantomimes being a prima donna acknowledging applause.
Adalgisa has a pleasing, creamy tone, and sings her sortita
nicely. She and Pollione get into their duet, taking place
in the "dressing room."
It's obvious by now, that this staging is mixing both the
backstage element with the opera pushed to the background:
a real life triangle with the opera's. The Pollione is now
infatuated with the Adalgisa, spurning the aging prima
donna Norma. Only the Adalgisa is not a sweet young thing.
Her backstage persona is scheming, calculating, while she
sings the vestal virgin's lines.
The Buster Brown-attired Clotilde come up from a trap in
the floor with Norma's 2 Dutch children. They play around
her dressing table. It commences with Norma in her motherly
dilemma. Norma and Adalgisa proceed with their duet, but we
see Adalgisa looking contemptuously at Norma - oooh she's
got an agenda.
Pollione comes onto the scene, and of course the "double"
meaning of the trio is supposed to be manifest. Norma is
in dire straits vocally in "O non tremare," the C's pushed
out painfully. Her high D capping the act achieves at least
3 different pitches.
Norma, Pollione and Adalgisa go back to their dressing
For act two, same stage. Adalgisa at her dressing table.
Kids asleep on the floor. Norma comes out in this white and
red Quo Vadis gown adorned with gold, and a big red fright
wig. Dutch kids see mamma brandishing a knife (none too
convincingly), run over to nanny Clotilde, and are sent
back under the stage. Norma and Adalgisa go through their
paces in the duet - higher key, both strained, tremulous
petulantly, and mildly goes into `In mia man." They have a
little spat. "Agalgisa fia punita" disappears, not at all
audible. At the end, we get the two freeze-framed in
place, Norma pointing her knife at Pollione. The director
told her to Do It That Way.
Confession goes off without a hitch. Ditto without a shiver
of emotion. Red wig dramatically removed. Attendants strip
her of her gold adornment, baubles.
As Norma sings "Qual cor tradisti," Pollione gradually puts
back on the rest of his civilian clothes. So does Norma.
Silver raincoat. Fur stole. Hat box carried thoughtfully by
Pollione. (Or is it a makeup case? I was left wondering
for the rest of the opera.)
All of a sudden Norma realizes she has two Dutch kiddies to
think about. Begs Papa to take care of them. Norma, smiling
beamingly at Oroveso, sits down in relief. Papa comforts
her further, to more smiles.
Norma picks up her stole, wraps it around her, and she and
Pollione begin to leave the company. Then. Oh. What's
this!!?? It's Adalgisa!! Adalgisa ritorna! Vincitor!! She
is wearing Norma's costume with red wig! She has stolen
Norma's Mistletoe-Cutter and is NOW THE NEW younger
NORMA!!!!! Old Norma, smiling unconcernedly, caterwauls
"addio" along with Pollione, and sweeps out as grandly as
she entered. Oh wait! Pollione is torn. He does not know
whether to follow Old Norma to Desmond Country or stay and
share victory with Young Norma. Being as Young always
wins, he drops Norma's hat box (I'm still trying to figure
out if that's a hatbox or a makeup case well anyway), he
inches longingly toward Adalgisa, I mean The New Norma, as
the curtain drops to a happy ending!
Bellini's devastating ending has been totally aborted here.
See the parallel? All About Adalgisa.
But it gets even better.
Along with this expensive two-DVD set comes an "Extras"
feature. It should be called Extra Extra Special feature,
because it is every bit as mesmerizing as the allegedly brilliant
The feature is about the making of this production. Julian
Reynolds talks about how the prima donna made it possible
to do this Norma. We see the prima donna complaining to the
costume designer that the gold-leafed Druid tiara is too
thin and doesn't fit. But oh, she tells him, it's a
beautiful, beautiful thing. Then she gives it to the
costume designer, and jokes to him, "Can you put some voice
in that as well?" And she cracks up, overjoyed at her
The prima donna, imperious, complains about the paint on a
dressing room wall. She is anxious. Allergic, she says.
Interviewer asks her: Do you worry a lot about your voice?
Answer" We are paranoiac, yeah." Nods vigorously. "We...( I
mean)I wake up in the morning and I'm frightened to say
"good morning", because I'm frightened...We are very fragile,
very vulnerable." She says with an obviously forced laugh.
She is trying to laugh off her anxiety, but is not
succeeding. And tries to explain what can affect the
voice. She pulls up every reason possible. We see her in
rehearsal, checking everything to make sure it won't
interfere with her voice. She is reassured that the smoke
won't affect her. It does...oor something else.
Apparently, it WAS the paint or the smoke, created from
ice. This is the production where Nelly Miricioiu was
supposedly ailing with a throat infection, and Lucia
Aliberti sang for her in the wings for the premiere.
Hasmik Papian came in for the rest of the run, as Aliberti
wasn't available for further performances. Miricioiu takes
up most of this documentary. We see her rehearsing "Casta
diva," and not doing very well with it. Nothing of an
illness seems wrong with her during the making of this or
through the rehearsals. It is obvious that her voice is no
longer up to doing this role: all her protestations about
the "fragility" of herself seem to be self-validations, in
attempt to reassure herself that it's something else, not
her, that's caused her vocal deterioration.
We then see the last part of this documentary with the
younger Papian taking over. Papian comes across as
thoughtful, modest, a bit reticent, but appealing.
As in the opera, the younger woman has come in to take the
veteran's place. Unfortunately this documentary is not at
all flattering to Miricioiu. She comes across neurotic,
paranoid, and posturing. And a little pathetic. You see her
vainly trying to hide her anxieties about what she knows is
the truth. I think she came into this production knowing
she was not up to the role, but was going to make a valiant
attempt anyway. And canceled because by opening night,
knew it wouldn't work.
Callas fans be warned: both the tenor and conductor give
their opinions on her. Of the "she was great but..." vein.
They averred that Callas, when she declined vocally,
defaulted, to make up for that decline, to a "verismo"
approach. Conductor and tenor don't approve of verismo in
bel canto. And the conductor tries to sell Miricioiu's
completely "different" approach. Hmm.
If you're looking for something remotely resembling
Bellini's opera, you can safely stay away from this one.
But if you don't want to play it safe, and need something
mesmerizingly terrible to watch, then this is your fix!
By far, the worst Norma I've ever encountered. Why? Because it replaces Bellini's and Romani's Norma with an American movie plot. The designers, directors and producers evidently felt the opera was not good enough to stand on its own.