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Norma - ENO


Geoff
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Not sure I'll be seeing it, but will be seeing Bartoli (mentioned in the review) in the role when she sings it in Monte Carlo next week.  Although I go to all her London concert performances it must be over twelve years since I saw her in an opera here.  So if the mountain won't come to Mohammed...........

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The four stars he gave the production don't seem to match what he actually wrote!! Being half Italian, I won't go and hear Italian opera in English (I know, I know) so I miss most ENO productions. I really therefore appreciate your own reviews and posting up other ones.

 

MAB, how I envy you seeing Bartoli in Norma in Monaco next week. Please report back!

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I don't speak Italian, but like to hear operas in the original language.  I find translations often don't fit a musical phrase properly and occasionally I hear something that comes across as anachronistic, slang words don't sit well with 19th century music in my opinion.  Sur titles are marvellous and although some don't like them I find it adds to the emotion when you know exactly what is being sung in a love duet.

 

ENO sometimes stages rarely performed operas and the opportunity to see something for the first time in years, or indeed the first time ever, is enough to tempt me to go along.  Although you rarely see big stars, the singers are often very good indeed, the orchestra and usually the conducting first rate, so I consider myself a supporter even though I don't go to everything.  Actual productions are very hit and miss, but they are at RO too, however some are outstanding.

 

Occasionally though they really hit the heights and Janet Baker's Julius Caesar is a performance I'll remember for ever.    I've seen some very good Brittan performances at ENO too  - no language problems there.

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Well, I tried Norma tonight. And given the ongoing discussion about the ENO, I wanted, really wanted, to accentuate the positive.

 

Yes, I find my spirits lift when I go in (the refresh they did a few years ago has helped the atmosphere). I like the mixed and relaxed and often quite young crowd (though perhaps not the massed ranks of Radio4 types, although they are probably the core audience who keep the ENO going so forget I said that, particularly if you are offended, I don't mean you, of course). The cheery staff are a big plus (compared to ROH ushers who too often manage to be high-handed at the same time as inept - squeaky shoes, cloth-eared choices about when to move about, often during the quietest passages etc) And the easy-going bringing in of drinks is a happy policy which disturbs not at all (compared to chatting, rustling, texting, coughing etc etc)

 

Can't help but love Matcham's masterpiece, an auditorium so over the top it isn't vulgar, just fun and gorgeous. And how nice to be able to get a perfectly good seat, with fine sightlines and excellent acoustics, on a whim on the day of the performance, for £20.

 

So - all was set pretty. But the Norma was off sick - which can happen anywhere but there was no warning on Twitter or whatever - and sadly the cover was not a match for the Adalgisa (the tenor the usual ENO not-quite-up-to-the-role voice). The production - for a "bad" production, or so friends and some critics suggested - was actually rather tasteful and well done, or at least what I saw of it as I left at the interval, as so often at ENO these days. It was wonderfully conducted, but having heard Gruberova and Garanca in this work, Bellini's limited orchestral invention was not enough to hold me for the night. Sorry all round. If the real Norma returns, I might give this another go, as I have been told good things about her voice.

Edited by Geoff
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Thanks Sim. In fairness I should report that a quick skim of Twitter just now suggests the crowd went wild for the cover at the end of the evening - so either she got better in the second half, or a generous audience rewarded her for stepping in to an impossible role at the last minute, or my ears were tired last night and I made a poor judgement.

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Referring back to my mention of Bartoli, she is singing Norma at this year's Edinburgh Festival, though clashing with the Bolshoi I think.  She gave a once in a lifetime performance here in MC on Tuesday, I would urge all opera lovers to try to go and be astonished.

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  • 2 weeks later...

... a quick skim of Twitter just now suggests the crowd went wild for the cover at the end of the evening - so either she got better in the second half, or a generous audience rewarded her for stepping in to an impossible role at the last minute, or my ears were tired last night and I made a poor judgement.

Who was the cover, Geoff?

 

I saw Norma on Monday and my heart sank as the man in the suit came on to make the dreaded announcement before the curtain went up. This time, Marjorie Owens did sing although we were warned that she was suffering from a recurring throat infection, not that I could have told; she was warm and lyrical and blended perfectly with Jennifer Holloway's Adalgisa.

 

Peter Auty sounded convincing as Pollione but was completely unsympathetic, looked uncomfortable rather than commanding and the Amish setting made total nonsense of the constant references to the Romans, temples and war. And what was with the enormous, phallic log? It did cross my mind that it might have been dragged across from down the road after its leading role in William Tell.

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