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29 / 05 / 2010
If you would like to see a conventional “Norma” with Druids and Roman centurions in conventional garb standing around, then perhaps you should stay away from this one!
If, on the other hand, you would like to see a highly original take on this great classic which draws parallels between a High Priestess and a modern-day operatic Diva, then you will certainly enjoy it.
In any case, this production from the De Nederlandse Opera is sure to give our Jury something to talk about, as it opens with a “backstage” view of an opera company rehearsing for a performance of “Norma”. The way their “personal” relationships get wound up with the plot of the opera is very intriguing, until the two stories blend into one at the end….
But there’s no dispute about the singing, which is first rate.
“The daring, unconventional staging which weaves the actual opera in with the backstage preparations of a mid 20th century opera company putting it on is bound to upset those who prefer a more conventional approach. Some are further put off by the fact that the cast’s offstage lives run parallel with those of their onstage characters.
Others found this a very astute way of introducing some novel stage business into an opera that is often extremely static.
“However almost everyone found Hasmik Papian’s Norma superb. Several also commented on the opera’s tunefulness and the generally very high standard of singing and playing.”
“I wasn’t sure I liked this interpretation. At times I didn’t think that it completely worked. The music and singing were very good.”
“Highly intelligent staging. An adequate transportation in time and style perfectly serving the understanding of the feelings and emotions, offering great consistency between the story and the continuity of the drama transposed to our view of things in today’s society.
Superb “legato” between what is happening on the “stage” and in the dressing room, mixing the preparatory aspects and the action which is an intrinsic part of the drama without any gratuitous effects.
A magnificent effect of transposition and creation beautifully serving the libretto. PERFECT!”
“The idiomatic nature of the subtitles was a problem for me. Dramatic moments, with rather flippant, casual translations didn’t work. For example — ready to stab her children, the subtitles said something like “Here goes”. Made this more comical than it should have been.”
“First of all disconcerted by the staging, I was then taken along with it and finally completely won over by the mixture of ancient and modern, and the ambivalence created by an interesting aesthetic confrontation.”
“Update did not work for me. Confusing (unnecessarily) and awkward for what turned out to be a reproduction of the classic staging. But Norma herself was terrific!”
“It was wonderful! The restraint of the set allows the cast to stand out all the more.”
“Why are so many productions set in the 1940s or 50s? They are really ugly. The Gaul’s costumes were hilarious!
On the whole I enjoyed the two stories and the wonderful eye rolling, gesticulations used to carry it off.”
“The first act was acceptable. The second act was confusing because of the modern dress. Tragic moments became comical. Voices and music were absolutely wonderful. Norma was brilliant!.”
“The female leads complemented each other. The tenor was a bit weak. The second half seemed very long. Not one of my most-enjoyed operas.”
“I am never very keen on modern interpretations of the story set at a specific time in history.
There were moments of great beauty, particularly the famous duet. But for me, Norma lacked passion somehow. I was not overwhelmed by this production but would like to see others because the music was so beautiful.”
“I would prefer it to have seen the opera in its original form. Plot made confusing by the modernisation—sometimes even to a comical degree! However, the voices were divine.”
Singing / performance: B
HDVD production: B
Overall ranking: B-
In addition to the usual Jury ratings we are now also conducting a survey into whether Jury members want to see this production again, would buy or recommend the disc and how they feel it compares with “being there”.
Here are the main findings for “Norma”.
"Would you like to see this production again, on TV or in the cinema?"
And most interestingly of all:
A massive 27% answered "Significantly better"
31.5% answered "Slightly better"
and a further 13% said it was "Comparable".
NB: This Jury included at least four very regular opera goers, a ballet dancer who was a member of the Maurice Béjart troupe and a former first violinist at the Opera Comique and Opera de Paris (under Daniel Barenboim).