|Angela Meade as Norma|
Photo by Scott Suchman for WNO
Dolora Zajick. The Azucena/Amneris/Eboli of our age. Other writers have called Ms. Zajick a force of nature, and I can't argue. Some of her singing on Sunday afternoon was almost unnaturally beautiful and affecting. In duets and trios where Angela Meade chose to float the climactic high notes Ms. Zajick was there, matching the floating quality beautifully. Adalgisa is the biggest loser in this story, and Ms. Zajick's anguish was very clear in the rear orchestra section. (Roman Consul Pollione had already married and deserted Norma before seducing poor Adalgisa, but when Adalgisa learns Pollione is also Norma's man and the father of her children, she sees him for the scoundrel he is. One wonders how many other girls Pollione had seduced between Norma and Adalgisa, but that's not part of the opera.) Although it did take her a short time to warm up again for Act II, her scene with Norma that ends with the famous duet "Mira, O Norma" was quite amazing.
|Rafael Davila and Dolora Zajick|
Photo by Scott Suchman for WNO
Let's talk about that Act II finale. From the end of the chorus "Guerra! Guerra!" and Hymn to the Sun to the final double bar, I was captivated. All of Mr. Bellini's amazing music and Mr. Felice Romani's skillful writing had been merely preparation for this sequence of one amazing passage after another. The duet "In mia man" in which Norma confronts Pollione, who had been captured while attempting to abduct Adalgisa, was riveting. "Son io!", as I've mentioned, really did make me cry. At the end of the finale, when Norma at last convinces her father Oroveso to look after her children after she has been put to death for her sins, brought many more tears. This was the kind of gripping operatic experience that causes people to leap to their feet and shout Bravo!
I credit Messrs. Bellini and Romani for this. I don't credit the stage director, Anne Bogart, with much of anything except traffic control, although some of those directions I found odd. Some stage bits were almost laughable, such as the very end of the Act I finale, when Norma, Adalgisa, and Pollione are singing their little hearts out, and pause upon hearing the offstage chorus in an uproar, each turning his/her head in the same direction and then turning back to face the audience and conductor and finish the last few bars, timed as well as if they were aspiring Pips. I'm not completely sold on the design by Neil Patel. The set was a unit set showing in a somewhat heavy-handed way the contrast between the Druids, with a full-height slatted wooden building on one side, with huge logs or tree trunks leaning against the building like toothpicks, and a heavy stone Roman building on another, where one occasionally espied a Roman sentry keeping watch from elevated window openings. Costumes by James Schuette were effective enough, although in low light some of the women's outfits had a somewhat 1920s profile.
Even with these minor quibbles, I can not over-emphasize how powerful this opera performance was. The talents of Bellini, Romani, Meade, Davila, Zajick and Belosselskiy gave me one of the best operatic afternoons I can recall.
Among the local delights in Washington were a delightful dinner with delightfuller drinks and truly inspirational waiter at The Pig, and Looped, a yarn shop that made the hubby very happy. Neither establishment is compensating me for these plugs, but we'll work that out later.