An pleasing enough Norma was given at Liege this week. I did not like everything of Davide Garattini-Raimondi’s direction. It had the merit of being on 3 levels which allowed to play with movements of the single versus the masses, but I found the paper mache-looking setting a bit unrefined, although I guess deliberate. Personally I did not see the necessity of the overly made-up faces and neither of the dancers who hopped also in the most inappropriate scenes. To me it looked a bit silly.
It was clear even before hearing her, that Patrizia Ciofi would be too light for Norma, “In mia mano alfin tu sei” for eg and all the lower passages was musically not very pleasing and at the end of the several evenings the voice sounded very tired. Having said that I found much dedication to the role, wonderfully floating acuti and a profound rendering. With her on stage was José Marina Lo Monaco who sang a beautiful and compassionate Adalgisa, and the two voices merged wonderfully in the duet of Act II. As Pollione we had Gregory Kunde who the role seemed to fit like a glove and the notes came out in apparent effortlessness from the lowest to highest, always a pleasure to hear. Andrea Concetti was a noble Oroveso, his second aria convinced more than the first. All were accompanied by the very capable hands of Massimo Zanetti; He kept the music going swiftly although the orchestra’s playing was not always neat and clean.
Conductor-Massimo Zanetti, Director-Davide Garattini Raimondi, Choreography & Director’s Assistant -Barbara Palumbo, Set And Lighting Design-Paolo Vitale, Costume Design-Giada Masi, Choirmaster-Pierre Iodice, Norma-Patrizia Ciofi, Pollione-Gregory Kunde, Adalgisa-Josè Maria Lo Monaco, Oroveso-Andrea Concetti *, Flavio-Zeno Popescu, Clotilde-Réjane Soldano, 25/10/17, Fotos: http://www.operaliege.be
Felice Romani, the librettist of Norma, set the opera in the Gauls: a druid priestess, Norma, and Pollione, a roman consul, were once in love and have two secret children. But Pollione now loves Adalgisa, a young priestess, which triggers Norma’s anger, her revelation of the forbidden love to the druids with subsequent burning at the stake. The story La Fura dels Baus tells is dominated by religious symbols, the curtain opens on hundreds of crosses, with all sort of religious characters including men dressed as ku klux klan, telling the story of how dominating religion can be and how trapped one can feel in it. The setting is modern (Pollione wears suit and tie) but the actions are faithful to the plot. What amazed me the most was the direction of the main characters; with every gesture, with every movement la Fura dels Baus displayed desperation, dreams, torment, hope. Vocally I was quite pleased. Yoncheva was vocally very strong in her lower as much as her high register (only the very top was a bit harsh) and her coloratura very fluid, her voice bright and luminous. Ganassi was better than I hoped, although her pronunciation is incomprehensible as so often. Calleja has a generous voice but a very tight vibrato and his breath is very short which makes him break the lines often and he seems a bit detached from what he sings. Pappano directs energetically though sometimes a bit too loud. Flavio and Clotilde sang well, Oroveso I would have wished with more weight. A very gripping evening altogether.
Conductor-Antonio Pappano, Director-Àlex Ollé, Associate director-Valentina Carrasco, Set designer-Alfons Flores, Costume designer-Lluc Castells, Lighting designer-Marco Filibeck, Norma-Sonya Yoncheva, Pollione-Joseph Calleja, Adalgisa-Sonia Ganassi, Oroveso-Brindley Sherratt, Flavio-David Junghoon Kim, Clotilde-Vlada Borovko