The soprano’s voice still ringing in my ears

I’m a fan of classic music and opera arias. I own a good number of CDs for both, but I rarely attend any of their shows at the opera house. Why? Because the idea of having to dress formally suffocates me and having to starve to death till the show is over, makes it even worse.
I find the whole experience of dressing up for any occasion a torture and confusing, that till the last minute I can’t decide what to wear (and I’ll be ironing something new at the speed of light.)
But when I heard that Norma was coming to town, I knew that I had to go.
The aria of Casta Diva is one of my favourites and something that I’d never miss (formally dressed and starved or not!)
Norma is an Italian opera, written by Bellini and delivered here by Opera de Rouen Normandie.
It takes place in Gaul, at the time of the Roman occupation.
Norma is a high priestess and the daughter of the head of druids, Oroveso.
She falls in love with the Roman proconsul Pollione, and their secret sacrilegious affair results in two children.
Every time her people decide to rise against the Roman occupation, Norma finds an excuse to delay it out of love.
But she foresees the fall of Rome due to it’s wickedness soon.
Things change when Pollione sets his eyes on Adalgisa, a young priestess at the temple.
He falls in love with her and asks her to escape with him to Rome.
Adalgisa is torn between her love to Pollione and by her duties as a virgin priestess, vowed to piety and the service of the God Irminsul.
Under pressure, she agrees to his plea and later regrets her decision.
She confesses to Norma who becomes furious by Pollione’s betrayal.
She decides to kill their children out of vengeance, but later changes her mind.
Norma asks Adalgisa to accept Pollione’s offer and take their children to Rome, as they have no place among the druids.
Adalgisa refuses and insists on talking to Pollione.
Maybe she could convince him to be with Norma again, she can’t break a happy family after all. Her attempts fail and she hides in the temple.
Pollione chases her and he’s caught trying to break into the temple, a violating act according to the druids.
Norma isn’t really decided on how to punish Pollione, as she’s still in love with him yet her desire to revenge is much greater.
She considers sacrificing Adalgisa to break his heart, but then she confesses her sins publicly and begs forgiveness.
She also asks to be burned at the stake instead of him.
When Pollione witnesses her great sacrifice, he falls in love with her again and decides to burn along with her.
The opera was spectacular.
The set design had a big screen at the back, displaying planets and skies that gave a sense of time – from dusk till dawn.
The English translation on the screen was excellent, but the Arabic one had a few mistakes (especially with gender and direct translation that made it funny at times). The feelings were so intense that you couldn’t help but wonder what would happen next or at times put yourself in Norma’s or Adalgisa’s shoes.
The only flaw were the costumes.
They were modernised that made the performance lose it’s time frame (the fedoras worn by some singers and Pollione’s red suit were distracting!).
My first opera experience was enjoyable, despite waking up the next day feeling the soprano’s voice still ringing in my ears.
Ear plugs next time?
Rasha al Raisi is a certified skills trainer and the author of:
The World According to Bahja.

Share Button