Libretto by Felice Romani
Perhaps once a generation, a soprano comes along who can do full justice to one of opera’s most dazzling and demanding roles. Today, that singer is Sondra Radvanovsky
, who “earned a thunderous ovation…her top notes ringing and powerful, her middle range velvety, her coloratura nimble and phrasing elegant” (The New York Times
), when she debuted as Norma at the Metropolitan Opera this past fall. In Bellini’s bel canto masterpiece, a Druid high priestess betrays her people by falling in love with an occupying Roman soldier. When the soldier abandons her for another, her volatile mix of anger and guilt threatens the lives of the innocent and guilty alike. Kevin Newbury
, praised by Opera News
for his thoughtfulness and eye for detail, stages this exciting new production. Music Director Nicola Luisotti's
superb cast also features the “powerful and exquisite” Daveda Karanas
(San Jose Mercury News
) and the “ardent, expressive tenor” Marco Berti
(The New York Times
For a complete listing of all Norma performances at San Francisco Opera, visit our online performance archive.
Sung in Italian with English supertitles
Approximate running time: 2 hours, 50 minutes including one intermission
Pre-Opera Talks are free to ticketholders and take place in the Opera House in the Orchestra section, 55 minutes prior to curtain (except Opening Night, Sep 5, 2014).
Co-production with Canadian Opera Company, Gran Teatre del Liceu and Lyric Opera of Chicago
Audio excerpts are from the 1982 performance of Norma with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Richard Bonynge.
“Casta diva”/Joan Sutherland (Norma); “Meco all’altar di Venere”/Ermanno Mauro (Pollione); “Deh! Con te li prendi”/Joan Sutherland; “Sì, fino all’ore estreme”/Joan Sutherland, Marilyn Horne (Adalgisa); “Guerra, Guerra!”/Chorus
* San Francisco Opera Debut
Gaul, 50 BCE, during the Roman occupation.
In a forest at night, the priest Oroveso leads the Druids in a prayer for revenge against the conquering Romans. After they have left, the Roman proconsul Pollione admits to his friend Flavio that he no longer loves the high priestess Norma, Oroveso’s daughter, with whom he has two children. He has fallen in love with a young novice priestess, Adalgisa, who returns his love. Flavio warns him against Norma’s anger. The Druids assemble and Norma prays to the moon goddess for peace. She tells her people that as soon as the moment for their uprising against the conquerors arrives, she herself will lead the revolt. At the same time, she realizes that she could never harm Pollione. When the grove is deserted, Adalgisa appears and asks for strength to resist Pollione. He finds her crying and urges her to flee with him to Rome. She agrees to renounce her vows.
Norma tells her confidante Clotilde that Pollione has been recalled to Rome. She is afraid that he will desert her and their children. Adalgisa confesses to Norma that she has a lover. Recalling the beginning of her own love affair, Norma is about to release Adalgisa from her vows and asks for the name of her lover. As Pollione appears, Adalgisa answers truthfully. Norma’s kindness turns to fury. She tells Adalgisa about her own betrayal by the Roman soldier. Pollione confesses his love for Adalgisa and asks her again to come away with him, but she refuses and vows she would rather die than steal him from Norma.
Norma, dagger in hand, tries to bring herself to murder her children in their sleep to protect them from living disgracefully without a father. She changes her mind and summons Adalgisa, advising her to marry Pollione and take the children to Rome. Adalgisa refuses: she will go to Pollione, but only to persuade him to return to Norma. Overcome by emotion, Norma embraces her, and the women reaffirm their friendship.
The Druids assemble at their altar to hear Oroveso’s announcement that a new commander will replace Pollione. Oroveso rages against the Roman oppression, but tells the Druids that they must be patient to ensure the success of the eventual revolt.
Norma is stunned to hear from Clotilde that Adalgisa’s pleas have not persuaded Pollione, and in a rage she urges her people to attack the conquerors. Oroveso demands a sacrificial victim, and just then Pollione is brought in, having profaned the sanctuary. Alone with him, Norma promises him his freedom if he will leave Adalgisa and return to her. When he refuses, Norma threatens to kill him and their children, and to punish Adalgisa. She calls in the Druids and tells them that a guilty priestess must die, then confesses that she is referring to herself. Moved by her nobility, Pollione asks to share her fate. Norma begs Oroveso to watch over her children, then leads her lover to the pyre.