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Opera Matinee: Bellini's Norma

The greatest tragic Italian opera before Verdi's, conducted by Antonio Pappano. A performance from the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, starring Sonya Yoncheva in the title role.

The greatest tragic Italian opera before Verdi's, conducted by Antonio Pappano. A performance from the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, starring Sonya Yoncheva in the title role of Norma, the druidic priestess in ancient Gaul who breaks her vows of chastity with an enemy Roman - and pays the ultimate price. Highlights include Norma's beautiful aria "Casta diva" ("Virtuous goddess") and her fiery duet with her unfaithful lover Pollione, sung by Joseph Calleja.

Presented by Kate Molleson

Norma, high priestess of the druids ..... Sonya Yoncheva (Soprano)
Pollione, Roman official ..... Joseph Calleja (Tenor)
Adalgisa, a younger priestess ..... Sonia Ganassi (Contralto)
Oroveso, chief druid, Norma's father ..... Brindley Sherratt (Bass)
Flavio, Pollione's friend ..... David Junghoon Kim (Tenor)
Clotilde, Norma's friend ..... Vlada Borovko (Soprano)
Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
Conductor Antonio Pappano

Followed at 4.30pm by another highlight from the 2019 Verbier Festival.
Mozart: Symphony No 31 in D major, K.297/300a (Paris)
Verbier Festival Chamber Orchestra
Conductor Leonidas Kavakos

Release date:

3 hours


Act I

Scene 1 

Oroveso, the head of a religious order, orders his followers to watch for the first signs of the new moon, and then to initiate the sacred rite over which his daughter Norma will preside. The group call upon their gods to inspire Norma to hatred against the occupying forces (Dell’aura tua profetica).

Oroveso and his followers leave as Flavio and Pollione, members of the occupying forces, arrive. Pollione confides in Flavio that he once loved Norma and has two children with her, but he has now tired of her and fallen in love with her friend Adalgisa. He is terrified of Norma’s anger if she finds out, and recounts a dream in which a phantom pursued him and Adalgisa to announce Norma’s revenge (Meco all’altar di Venere).Hearing voices, the two men leave.

Norma and her followers prepare for their ceremony. Norma counsels the people against war and prays for peace (Casta diva) – but she also promises to lead a rebellion when the time is right. Norma’s people order that her first victim be Pollione. Norma admits to herself that she cannot kill her former lover, and that if Pollione returns to her she will even defend his life (Ah! bello, a me ritorna).

After the ceremony, Adalgisa expresses her guilt over her relationship with Pollione,and prays for the strength to leave him (Deh! proteggimi, o dio). Pollione finds her,and urges her to run away with him (Va, crudele, al dio spietato). Adalgisa overcomes her reluctance and promises to renounce her vows and escape with him.

Scene 2

Norma has heard that Pollione has been recalled to his homeland, and is anxious.She hears someone approach, and asks her confidante Clotilde to hide her two children.The visitor is Adalgisa. She confesses that she is in love with a man who she first met by chance (Sola, furtiva, al tempio). She describes their regular meetings and their love.Norma, remembering her own love affair, is sympathetic, and agrees to release Adalgisa from her vows (Ah! sì, fa core e abbracciami). She asks Adalgisa for her lover’s name; Adalgisa names Pollione just as he arrives. Norma tells Adalgisa about her own relationship with Pollione and denounces him (Oh! di qual sei tu vittima). Pollione admits that he now loves Adalgisa, and again begs her to leave with him. Adalgisa refuses and Norma orders Pollione out of the house (Vanne, sì: mi lascia, indegno).

Act II

Scene 1

Norma watches her children sleeping, and worries about their future. She decides to kill them to prevent their suffering when their parentage is revealed (Teneri, teneri figli).However, she loves them too much to commit murder, and instead orders Clotilde to bring Adalgisa to her. Norma suggests to Adalgisa that she marry Pollione, and take the children with her to his country, but Adalgisa wants to try to persuade Pollione to returnto Norma (Mira, o Norma). The women vow eternal friendship (Si, fino all’ore estreme).

Scene 2

Pollione has been recalled to his country. Oroveso warns his followers that a more tyrannical governor may take his place, and worries about Norma’s lack of interest in the people’s struggle. He urges his followers to wait patiently; soon they will have their revenge (Ah! del Tebro al giogo indegno).

Scene 3

Clotilde informs Norma that Pollione will not return to her, and is planning to abduct Adalgisa. In revenge, Norma gives the sign for her people’s rebellion to begin. The people sing a ferocious war hymn (Guerra, guerra! Le galliche selve). Oroveso asks Norma why she has not completed her sacrificial rite, and she replies that the victim is now ready. Pollione is dragged in – he has been found nearby. He refuses to respond to Oroveso’s interrogation. Norma prepares to kill Pollione, but finds she cannot do so. She ordersthe others away, leaving her alone with her former lover.

Norma offers Pollione his freedom if he will abandon Adalgisa (In mia man alfintu sei). Pollione refuses, and Norma threatens to kill him and their children and have Adalgisa burned alive.

Norma recalls the people, and announces that the sacrifice will be a guilty priestess.When Oroveso and the people ask who this is, Norma condemns not Adalgisa (as Pollione expects), but herself (Qual cor tradisti). Oroveso only now learns the truth of his daughter’s situation. She begs him to spare her children and look after them, and he reluctantly agrees (Deh! non volerli vittime). Norma and Pollione die together.