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María José Siri shines as Norma in Naples

By , 14 February 2020

Few operas are more romantic than Bellini’s Norma, both for its lyrical atmosphere and dramatic story, more complex than it appears. In the Druid priestess’ secret affair with a faithless Roman proconsul, director Lorenzo Amato sees the “struggle between the raison d'état, religious power and the private feelings, overlapping in the music and proceeding hand in hand in the libretto”. Amato revived his San Carlo production of 2016, confirming his traditional, classical approach in the setting, with deep penetration into the recesses of the work. Thus, his reading of Bellini’s tragedy of love and unfaithfulness in the Gaul occupied by Roman troops was an investigation of the relationship between affection and moral duty, also with a glance at Medea’s tragedy.

Norma
© Luciano Romano

The sets by Ezio Frigerio, showing a forest with a big tree and rocks all around, and the costumes by Franca Squarciapino, helped to embed the drama in the exact time and place of action. The production was warmly applauded by the audience, as was also a sad moment: this production was dedicated to the memory of Maestro Nello Santi, recently departed, who conducted this same production four years ago.

In the title-role, María José Siri showed a fine soprano. Her attractive singing lines alternated with effortless coloratura passages and high notes. Siri sang her showcase aria, “Casta Diva” with grace and melancholy. The excesses of the character in the first act finale were well portrayed, and she was touching in the final scene when the emotional distress progressively decreased and Bellini’s music turned back to a dramatic simplicity.

María José Siri (Norma) and Silvia Tro Santafé (Adalgisa)
© Luciano Romano

Siri found in Silvia Tro Santafè, (the second cast mezzo who substituted for Annalisa Stroppa at the premiere, because of the latter’s sudden indisposition) the perfect antagonist, mainly in the first duet with Adalgisa; in the role of the naïve priestess, the Spanish singer showed good acting skills, as well as a beautiful voice, and was at ease in the high register of her role.

Tenor Fabio Sartori was good at communicating Pollione’s weakness of character. In the end, his cowardice is redeemed by Norma, a strong woman, whose integrity and compassion eventually make her go beyond herself. Sartori’s singing was wide-ranging with notable diction and projection and clever use of his voice and acting skills. Fabrizio Beggi’s made a strong impression as Oroveso, Norma’s father, an authoritative character who showed the required vocal strength and noble personality of this role along with a warm bass voice. The minor roles and Clotilde were capably sung by Antonello Ceron (as Flavio, Pollione’s comrade) and Fulvia Mastrobuono (Clotilde, Norma’s faithful maid).

Norma
© Luciano Romano

Francesco Ivan Ciampa's conducting was good, though he expanded some tempi more than expected, thus keeping the drama from catching excessive fire: and this may have been a good more than an evil, given the essential, intimate reading. Nevertheless, he knows how to conduct bel canto and outlined every dramatic aspect of the tragedy, making the emotion felt in many passages, supported by the unfailing San Carlo orchestra, which was decidedly solid and reliable. The chorus, directed by Gea Garatti Ansini, was a very large one in this production, and provided once more a fine performance.

****1
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Reviewed at Teatro di San Carlo, Naples on 12 February 2020
Bellini, Norma
Francesco Ivan Ciampa, Conductor
Lorenzo Amato, Director
Ezio Frigerio, Set Designer
Franca Squarciapino, Costume Designer
María José Siri, Norma
Silvia Tro Santafé, Adalgisa
Fabio Sartori, Pollione
Fabrizio Beggi, Oroveso
Fulvia Mastrobuono, Clotilde
Antonello Ceron, Flavio
Coro del Teatro di San Carlo
Orchestra del Teatro di San Carlo
Vincenzo Raponi, Lighting Designer
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