Norma, Opera North/Theatre Royal Newcastle 10 March

***

This time the comment was there are no springs in these seats.

The production featured a chorus of grubby proletarians (surely they should have been peasants) in a large wooden shed (surely they should have been outside) oppressed by top-hatted capitalists in the form of Pollione and Flavio.  There was a lot of random stage business to distract from the action, and equally distracting was the presence of characters who shouldn’t really be there dramatically.

Often the programme will give a clue to the production concept in these cases, but this time it only offered some enigmatic b/w photos without captions or picture credits (which might have given some clue).  Whatever it was, the concept did involve Norma and Adalgisa doing a lot of grovelling around on the floor, presumably so as not to make things too easy for them in singing.  That levitating log played an important parrt, and also reminded me unpleasantly of the giant ‘Nartish’ turdgods from the Mariinsky Ring a couple of years back.

As Norma, Annemarie Kramer sometimes gave the impression she felt she had already done enough in previous performances and now she wanted to go home.  Pollione (Luis Chapa) started off loud, coarse and uncertain in intonation but improved as the evening went on–it helped that he was figuring more in ensembles as well.  I thought Oroveso was well sung by James Creswell, although he was on stage many times when he should not have been.  Keri Alkema was very good as Adalgisa.

I had two main problems with this evening.  Annemarie Kramer didn’t really come to terms with the vast range of emotion demanded by the role–from psychotic rage to beatific self-sacrifice–probably she was just tired.  Also the storyline of heroic impossible love and sacrifice really made no sense in this dingy depressing overcrowded setting.

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