A very good Norma
dassayev | UK | 06/15/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"There are too few DVDs available of this great opera. This modern DVD is a welcome addition and a good buy.
First the sets are traditional. Early scenes are dominated by a giant tree on the stage. Later Norma and Pollione jump onto the burning pyre together. The costumes are sensible (unlike the Anderson DVD).
Now to the singing. First, Norma is sung by Dimitra Theodossiou. Her rendition of casta diva is magical. The camera wanders onto the opera theatre ceiling and you get a shadow of the conductor conducting. It is very nice. She just gets better and better with a great ending trio at the end of act 1. She certainly has the high notes. I know some people are not keen on her high notes but i found them and her voice in general very pleasing.
The Pollione is Carlo Ventre. There seems to be difficulty on all the Norma DVDs in getting a decent pollione. Whilst he sings well there are times when he just barks and it gets a bit dull.
The Adalgisa is sung by Nidia Palacios and she sings the part very well. She looks like a woman done wrong, deceived by a man. I enjoyed her singing.
The conductor leads the orchestra very well. The sinfonia at the start is excellent-thrillingly played.
One word of caution. I am not sure why but the way in which the sound has been captured does not always match the movements of the singers mouths. In the notes the DVD company talks about using "original dynamic sound" systems. There are times when the singing is a few seconds ahead of the mouth movements-this especially effects the Adalgisa Nidia Palacious. Otherwise, the sound and vision are first class.
Theodossiou make a provincial outing special
Niel Rishoi | Ann Arbor, MI USA | 11/07/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Apart from the Norma and Oroveso, this performance is
provincial in every way, undermined by some very awful
costuming and staging effects. The worst costume is given
to Norma, replete with purple lips and short, spiky,
FLAMING orange hair, a la Cyndi Lauper: she looks like a
deranged chrysanthemum. It is so godawful you can't take
your eyes off the whole getup - and it seriously undermines
the gravitas of the character's integrity. It is a
thoroughly hideous, insulting manifestation - I wish
Theodossiou had said "Basta!" and ripped it up. The simple
shifts aren't bad, but then Norma dons a floor length
overcoat at the end. Adalgisa comes out in a dark gray
shift with an overcoat: with her long, stringy, greasy
hair, she looks like a refugee, not at all an appealing
vestal virgin. Pollione is costumed in the Duke's attire
from Rigoletto. Oroveso, also stringy-haired, looks like a
homeless man. The sets are impressive, though. The forest
has real atmosphere: during the "Casta Diva" the moon
shines behind the mistletoe tree, lending the right eerie
effect. Norma's dwelling is just a series of forbidding
dark walls with doorways that have no doors. The final
scene takes place in front of a ruined stone staircase; it
parts at the end for the pyre, amidst a fiery sky. The gong
is placed high up; Norma has to reached on tippy toes to
sound it. When Pollione is brought in, hands tied to
ropes, the supers holding the ropes go on either side of
the extremes of the stage - and stays that way.
Distracting, and stupid - you don't believe for a moment
that he's restrained from tearing loose.
Two performances that are dispensable are that of the
Adalgisa and Pollione. Palacios has a thoroughly
unigratiating timbre and musicianship. She phrases in
parts, one bar at a time. High options are eschwed. None
of the girl's dilemmas are put across at all: no warmth or
endearment, and less, the object of convincing ardour on
Pollione's part. The duets with Theodossiou have
absolutely no collegiality or magic of give and take: they
just clunk along and go thud to the ground. Ventre as
Pollione is earnest, sincere, but has no dramatic
conviction, and the voice is throaty, bleaty, strangled.
He looks pitifully lost, uncomfortable most of the time.
He and Theodossiou have no chemistry whatsoever; Pollione
seems a non-entity, emasculated, a lightweight boy. This
singer is still at LUCIA's Arturo at this stage in the
career. Riccardo Zanellato has the weight of tone, the
towering presence to give Oroveso some importance. He's
especially vivid at the end of the opera.
Theodossiou at once establishes herself as a singer of
interest. The tone seems weighty, important: there is a
hooded, plum color to her timbre. She has studied the role
thoroughly, shirks none of the challenges, and invests a
great deal of energy, passion, and, to a point, emotion to
the character's kaleidoscopic nature. By these points
alone she scores a success. Theodossiou is far better than
June Anderson in terms of expression, diction, and
personality; ditto Sutherland - but the Australian
completely eclipses her in terms of vocal sumptuousness and
technique. But (in terms of Norma on video) Theodossiou
has to yield to Caballé (the 1974 Orange, perhaps first
choice, is a towering performance). Caballé, as represented in the Orange
performance, comes closest to what modern day aficionados
would consider to be the right Norma.
Still, this is a good early-career Norma: Theodossiou has
not quite internalized the role yet. She incorporates some
extraneous vocal effects to impart what she means, but they
seems misplaced, almost gimmicky (noted below).
"Sediziose voci"is a bit slow, but it has point, a sense of
drama, and displays some good chest tones. "Casta diva" -
in the key of F - comes off well, though Theodossiou takes
several breaths, and sings the accented top A's as one,
before going up the the B flat. I think it is incorrect to sing the repeated notes as one, without noting the accents.
Amazingly, Theodossiou sings only one verse of the
cabaletta, and one of the coda, "Ah, riedi ancora." For
shame - in this day and age of bel canto performance
awareness. Theodossiou's passagework is neat, efficient,
but not fleet or nimble.
The important recit before the first duet is wonderful:
"Troppo tormentoso" is vivid, and she sounds the low notes
with darkness, character (Scotto does this section best).
"Nol fossi" is overwrought, not ironic; the "O rimembranza"
doesn't float. She does sing well her part of the duet,
floating the held notes nicely, but she and Palacios don't
blend at all. "O non tremare" flashes with scorning anger,
the Cs effectively negotiated, but she distorts and tugs at
the line during the trio. Theodossiou's high D crowning the act: it's a forced, deeply scooped wah-AHHHH!
"Dormono entrambi" is properly agitated, but Theo's
(name shortened now!) wild eyes sets off by the flaming firebush
on her head makes her look like a nutcase. "Teneri figli is
felt, long-lined and expressive. The duet with Adalgisa is
brought down from the C and F keys to B flat and E flat,
never gets off the ground, due to Palacios, and the
clunking, draggy tempo; it starts, stops, starts again.
they do, however, do a neat variation of the second verse
of, "Si, fino allore estreme."
"Ei tornera, with the pianissimo `a piacere' vocalise up to
high C, is surprisingly well done by Theo, as is the C on
"scorreran." "In mia man" is variable. Here Theo does a
lot of parlando and snarling effects which bends phrases
out of shape: and here is where her vocalism shows its
unevenness. "Adalgisa sia punita," a killer phrase on low
with trills, is brought off well, chesty, and she attempts
those shakes, and sounds them out. But in other phrases,
the voice does not find a center to it, and she will omit
the chest; in its place will be a hollow timbre,
alternating with a fruity one, that does not resound as
well as the chest tones when she chooses to use them. Its
as if Theo does not know how her voice will respond, or,
she does not want to overuse the chest for fear of fatigue,
or yet still, does not have full security of technique to
"adjust" the voice in time where needed.
Surprise: Theo ends the duet on an E flat - throttled,
borderline screamed, and with a mighty scoop. It does
convey its intended drama though - Norma at the end of her
Norma's confession is heartfelt, but that sense of release,
dread is not quite there: the direction has not played up
the momentous calamity enough.
"Qual cor tradisti"is taken much too fast by the conductor,
and doesn't give Theo a chance to impart the gravity or
catharsis. Theo's "Ah padre, prego ancor" is poignantly
sung, and "Deh! non volerli vittime" is deeply felt, and
she sings the "release" note B in "Di lor pietA" softly,
tenderly, not belting it out.
This is an impressive, auspicious initial outing for Theo.
You need to go no further than this performance to see
what distinguishes her apart from her co-stars: she has
theater, presence and a vivid, individual personality. I
expect that she will improve and increasingly polish some
of the inconsistencies and rough edges.
And hopefully find a better wig.
It adds up to something special
Robert Baksa | new york state | 06/28/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Since I have never been a Caballe fan and was aware that Sutherland's videotaped Normas were later in her career than one would wish, I waited a long time before buying a Norma DVD. I almost bought the June Anderson version but have always been troubled by her voice...beautiful in the middle, hard and steely in the high register. By chance I came upon the present performance at a bargain price and took a chance. After many viewings I have to say that I have found it satisfying and increasingly so each time I see it. Here is a case where the sum is far greater than the indivicual parts. There may be more accomplished singers out there than Theodossiou but she has a Callas like intensity with a more beautiful voice. In a word, she delivers! She is a dumpy middle aged woman who has lost her equally aging lover to a younger woman. Adagisa is sung by a slender (for once) young woman so, while her voice leaves something to be desired, she is believable as all of the singers are. The conventional staging totally supports the drama and never distracts from it. The production moves from beginning to end with a well shaped energy. If one can forgo the lure of big names this DVD is well worth the investment.
One curious note: the seldom heard applause is so distant and half hearted even after wonderful moments that it makes me wonder if this was actually taped without an audience with an applause track added later. They can't all be deaf the the excitement of this performance."