Wednesday, 31 August 2016

The real bel canto (EIF/Norma)

Bellini, Norma (Gianluca Capuano cond. I Barocchisti)
Fans of Norma are doing pretty well this year, with Bartoli taking the Salzburg production to the Edinburgh Festival (seen 5th August) and a new production at the ROH in September. 
Bartoli as Norma. Photo: Hans Jörg Michel
Bartoli was of course the big draw to this. From an odd, fairly cheap seat produced after booking a last-minute meeting in Edinburgh, it was a delight to hear this secure, controlled voice offering a glimpse of pure bel canto. I say pure because this is the Biondi and Minasi pared-back version. It sounds stunning with gorgeous, generous period sounds from I Barocchisti made for a glimpse of the real bel canto, but showing how satisfying it could be dramatically as well as vocally. It wasn’t just about Bartoli. John Osborn made for a fine Pollione, and Rebeca Olvera’s Adalgisa was more than up to pairing with Bartoli. It was worth taking the chorus from Switzerland for the final scene alone. 

After a busy day starting shortly after 5am, not everything would have held my attention so effortlessly as this did. The production is clear and un-gimmicky. The transplant to Vichy France works beautifully and as the flames leapt so very high at the end, I almost wondered if this wasn’t another, Germanic redemption unfolding before my eyes. These were, after all, father-daughter issues. A simple equation seems to hold in opera: father + daughter + fight + flame = tears. 
Immolation. Photo: Hans Jörg Michel
Overall: a glimpse of the real bel canto
Cecilia Bartoli Norma
Rebeca Olvera Adalgisa
John Osborn Pollione
Péter Kálmán Oroveso
Liliana Nikiteanu Clotilde
Reinaldo Macias Flavio
Gianluca Capuano Conductor
Moshe Leiser, Patrice Caurier Directors
I Barocchisti
Swiss Radio and Television Chorus, Lugano

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