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Bellini - Norma
Bellini - Norma
Actors: Hasmik Papian, Hugh Smith, Irini Tsirakidis, Giorgio Giuseppini, Anna Steiger
Director: Guy Joosten
Genres: Indie & Art House, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
NR     2006     3hr 8min


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Movie Details

Actors: Hasmik Papian, Hugh Smith, Irini Tsirakidis, Giorgio Giuseppini, Anna Steiger
Director: Guy Joosten
Genres: Indie & Art House, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, DTS, Classical
Studio: BBC / Opus Arte
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 10/31/2006
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2005
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 3hr 8min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 1
Edition: Classical
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: Italian
Subtitles: Dutch, English, French, Italian, Spanish

Movie Reviews

P. Byrne | 01/23/2007
(1 out of 5 stars)

"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"
Warning : This is NOT Bellini's Norma
Chaconnesque | Singapore, Singapore Singapore | 12/20/2006
(1 out of 5 stars)

"I wish Mr Rishoi would post his evaluation of this Norma here. I believe he said it was the worst production of Norma he had ever watched. I agree totally.
I almost went to Amsterdam to watch this production. I'm glad I did not. Instead of Bellini's great tragedy of sacrifice, forgiveness and reconciliation, we are treated to a story about two sopranos fighting for a tenor, and who happened to be singing Norma. So the story of Norma becomes relegated to become the backdrop for the real drama on-stage.
I would not pay to watch an opera about 3 singers who happened to sing in an opera which roughly reflected their 'real-life' situations. Neither would I have paid for this DVD.
I found the whole production so distracting that I could not listen to the music except by closing my eyes. But then Papian et al are nowhere near the likes of Callas, Sutherland, Caballe or even Scotto as Norma to merit such a listening.
I will not want to watch it again.
Stick to your Caballe DVD."
Re-interprets Bellini's opera: an insulting stinker of a con
Niel Rishoi | Ann Arbor, MI USA | 11/07/2006
(1 out of 5 stars)

"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
tables, miffed.

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
on top, not ideal.

Oroveso's Norma-Getting-Ready-For-Her-Final-Scene interlude
is fully staged in costume: combination Viking, Fractured
Fairy Tales. Several of the chorus, including Oroveso has
little mistletoe wings on their heads.

When Norma finds out of Pollione's existence in the
temple/opera house from Nanny Clotilde, she goes over to
his dressing table, grabs the chair and starts smashing the
mirror with the leg of the chair. She's a bit angry. Each
hit is sorta kinda timed with the gong, but it's off.
Having Expressed Anger, Norma tosses chair aside.
"Sterminio" comes out as "Her minio." A Freudian slip??

Pollione comes back out -in civilian clothing. Yes, amongst
the fully costumed cast. He looks aghast at Norma's knife

Curtain closes. The duet commences in front of the red
stage curtain. Pollione's smashed-mirror dressing table
off the left. Norma leans on it, folds her arms
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.

Novel production--good singing
C. Harbison | Montague, MA United States | 11/06/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"What should contemporary stage directors do with a classic operatic masterpiece like Bellini's Norma whose story seems so totally defined by a certain time or place (in this case Roman-occupied Gaul)? In this Dutch production, the director has tried to breathe new life into the work by making the two female leads (Norma and Adalgisa) competing contemporary opera divas who are also participating in a production of Norma--and they are competing for the real-life love of a tenor who of course is also in the opera. Sometimes this multi-layered conceit works and sometimes it runs directly counter to the words of the libretto (especially at the end when the Norma diva is portrayed as having won the battle and going off stage to live happily ever after with her tenor/lover while the chorus sings of the funeral pyre and Norma's tears--she's smiling!). So it is altogether an interesting but uneven attempt to bring a fresh perspective to this beautiful score. Musically the performance is very good, especially the orchestra and Norma herself (Hasmik Papian). Adalgisa is a bit shrill (Irini Tsirakidis) and Pollione (Hugh Smith) has to huff and puff to get through his part. Certainly this is not a first choice for anyone unfamiliar with this opera (there is a great performance on DVD by Caballe and a very good one by June Anderson)--but it's an interesting addition to the catalog."