Saturday, October 14, 2017

Two Old Wimmen go to see NORMA



My friend and I went to the movies to see Met @ The Movies first offering of the season NORMA by Bellini. My friend went to NYC sixty years ago to be an actress. She was an actress, too, and has terrific stories about performers like and then taught in city schools, because that's often the way "careers" in the Arts go--your chosen professional becomes a hobby, or you starve. She's verbal, sophisticated, and she Got Experience, as we were all instructed to do we young adults of the '60's.  She is, in the language of grand opera Tesoro mio (think that's right--except maybe in the feminine).  She's got first hand stories from those days, a few about actors of the calibre of Albert Finney, who she met back when he'd just played Tom Jones (!!!)   I'm just chuffed to know her, a lovely person in my town who also shares a love of opera. When she returned home to finish up her days--NYC is no place for the old unless they are also, very much, The Very Rich--there was mutual celebration when we discovered one another. 

Neither of us had ever seen NORMA before and were unfamiliar with the story, although we vaguely knew it was Druids v. Romans. We both love the operatic style "Bel Canto," which was brought back to the stage by great divas like Ponselle, Sutherland, and Callas.  Bel Canto means "beautiful singing" which really doesn't give you much information when the subject is opera. Lots of "too many notes" if you're like the Emperor in Amadeus, but let's face it, that's basically so clueless that only an Emperor could get away with saying such a thing and go blithely unchallenged.




If you know any Rossini, you get the drift of how Norma sounds, although I think Bellini is far more entrancing, with his long lyrical lines. My friend and I were just knocked over by both the singing and the production by Sir David McVicar, whose Druids looked like--well, Druids--in a dark forest with the monster stub of an dying oak decked in skulls and swords and shields as the lurking focal point. The singers were stellar, as we Met @ the Movies folk have come to expect. Joyce DiDonato and Sonya Radvanovsky sang with balance, craft, and beauty. Both women can act and handled their closeups well. The tenor who played the point of the love triangle, the super-male Roman commander who thinks he can discard wife#1 without consequence, was played by a charming--in his actual self--Joseph Calleja.  We noted that while he played the villain, he seemed determined, in his interview, to express his personal dislike for the behavior of  male Chauvanist pig he played. 




For a libretto crafted in 1831 in Italy, the story came amazingly close to being a feminist shout out. When the two women, one older and one younger and both priestesses, discover that they are both in love with the same man, they draw together instead of fighting one another. Of course, the older woman has to sacrifice herself for the "greater good" in the end, so we can't give it full marks on liberation, however, my friend was sufficiently amazed to burst out "that's how women should treat one another." 

We could barely get back on our feet when it was over, because we'd stayed where we were during the intermission, which was filled with another fascinating look backstage at workers and machinery at this grandest of all grand opera venues. All those hours later, I was bent like 97 years and grasping the handrail all the way down the stairs from our seating. 

~~Juliet Waldron

P.S.  And is it obligatory that all movie theaters (and Casinos) have those "Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas" carpets? 





http://amzn.to/24EUxiC  Nightingale ISBN:  B00D8MEL8E



2 comments:

Strange Fruit said...

I love 'Norma.' And your writing. And you.

Juliet Waldron said...

well wow