Victorian Opera 2014 - Norma Programme

Page 1

Vincenzo Bellini

NORMA Melbourne Recital Centre 23 August 2014

1 O TH A N N I V E R S A R Y

I PURITANI VINCENZO BELLINI 2 J U LY 2 0 1 5 In 2015 Victorian Opera presents Bellini’s final opera, the breathtaking I Puritani. Australia’s ‘prima donna assoluta’ Jessica Pratt joins one of the world’s greatest bel canto tenors, Celso Albelo for this rare concert performance in Hamer Hall, Arts Centre Melbourne. With Norma selling out on subscription, guarantee your seat to I Puritani and subscribe now to Victorian Opera’s 2015 season. | 1300 822 849

Artistic Director & Conductor’s Message

conventional finale with chorus. This is how the opera is usually performed, however we have reverted to Bellini’s and Romani’s original trio finale. Bellini re-wrote “Casta Diva” no less than eight times before he was satisfied and the entire opera, composed in 90 days, was subject to many drafts of the music and re-writes of the text. Both creators were intent on dramatic truth and were concerned to avoid conventional tradition and formulas and to achieve an integrated and organically constructed work for the lyric stage. Norma for me represents a perfect, magical fusion of text and music. Perfect because the melodic genius of Bellini captures the emotion of the drama as well as having a formal perfection of its own, and magical because, despite its apparent simplicity, the work has a strong personality forged from the integrity of Bellini’s musical language and dramatic skill.

The cast, including the great Pasta, the first Norma, were exhausted on opening night – because of the extension of rehearsals to the last minute (in fact, the very morning of the first performance) – and the premiere was not a success. Nevertheless, despite the initial critical hostility, the real stature of the work became apparent to both audience and critics.

The work had a less than propitious premiere – Bellini was the subject of intrigue by the rich and powerful Russian Contessa Giulia Samoyloff (1803-1875) – patroness if not mistress of rival composer Pacini. At the beginning of rehearsals in December 1831, Bellini wrote to his friend Mercadante – perhaps sensing the troubles ahead:

Today the work is seen as one of the most significant of the early Romantic operas which exerted a fascination throughout the nineteenth century (Wagner, no less, conducted it), the twentieth century with the famous Callas and Sutherland performances – right down to our own times. Tonight, we use the new edition prepared by Maurizio Biondi and Riccardo Minasi in 2010. However – whatever performance fashions prevail, nothing can dim the eternal flame of this great opera where music and poetry will enchant in whatever new “authentic” critical version will emerge now or in years to come.

“On Monday, I will start rehearsals for Norma, I have also made my will and thoughts of leaving you something, should they kill me off. As you are also starting rehearsals and therefore the same thing may happen to you, I beg you not to forget me.” The La Scala management interfered with work, demanding that the Act I finale be replaced by a

Richard Mills Artistic Director & Conductor

Richard Mills / Artistic director & conductor's message

Managing Director’s Message

bel canto sopranos, Saioa Hernández in her Australian debut, alongside a great Australian cast and our valued colleagues from Orchestra Victoria.

Welcome to Victorian Opera’s first concert performance of a complete opera for a number of years. The option of concert performances is an attractive way for the company to bring repertoire to life which would require a significant financial risk if we were to mount a fully-staged production. I am extremely pleased to say that tonight’s performance sold out purely on subscription, a situation which not only highlights the popularity of Norma, but also the benefits of a Victorian Opera subscription package! As you are no doubt aware, our 2015 Season has launched and I would urge you to consider a 2015 subscription, if for no other reason than to guarantee your seats for next year.

Secondly, we continue to believe that an innovative company is an interesting company. Artistic Director Richard Mills’ extraordinary programming sees an incredible mix of traditional works alongside new commissions, works created for and with the community alongside our comprehensive education program and the best of music theatre alongside works specifically for young people and families. Thirdly, we have a firm policy of developing the next generation. Whether this is through our Master of Music (Opera Performance) course (tonight’s performance features the current intake of students along with recent graduate; Carlos e. Bárcenas), our VOYCe (Victorian Opera Youth Chorus ensemble) group or our work in schools throughout Victoria. Finally, we take most seriously of all our role as the state’s opera company. We exist to serve the entire state of Victoria and work tirelessly to ensure that the operatic art, in all its many forms, becomes more relevant to all parts of our community.

The box-office success of our 2014 program is incredible and there are, I believe, a number of reasons for that success.

I thank you for your commitment to supporting the very best of opera in Victoria and hope that you enjoy the majesty that is Norma.

Firstly, we have an unerring commitment to quality. Tonight you will see one of the world’s great

Andrew Snell Managing Director


1 O TH A N N I V E R S A R Y

NEW WORLDS SEASON 2015 Find your world at

NORMA 23 August 2014 Elisabeth Murdoch Hall, Melbourne Recital Centre Composer Vincenzo Bellini Librettist Felice Romani First performed in 1831, Milan. Running time approximately 3 hours including one interval. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Surtitles provided by Opera Australia prepared by Brian FitzGerald. CVP, Christian Smith. CREATIVE TEAM Conductor Chorus Preparation & Principal Repetiteur Repetiteurs

Richard Mills Phoebe Briggs Phillipa Safey Simon Bruckard

Production & Stage Manager Surtitle Operator

Luke Hales Christian Smith

CAST Norma Adalgisa Pollione Oroveso Flavio Clotilde

Saioa Hernรกndez Nicole Car Rosario La Spina Daniel Sumegi Carlos E. Bรกrcenas Lee Abrahmsen


VICTORIAN OPERA CHORUS Soprano Kate Amos Kirilie Blythman Fiona Jopson Anna Margolis Cristina Russo Diana Simpson Emily Uhlrich Sophie Viskich Mezzo Kerrie Bolton Rebecca Bywater Elizabeth Lewis Emma Muir-Smith Ursula Paez Selina Pettifer Anna Plotka Belinda Prakoff Tenor Jonathon Bam Paul Batey Paul Biencourt Irving Dekterev Tobias Glaser Alister Lamont Michael Petruccelli Brenton Spiteri Baritone/Bass Jeremy Kleeman Robert Latham Nathan Lay Oliver Mann Simon Meadows Alex Pokryshevsky Matthew Thomas Matthew Tng

ORCHESTRA VICTORIA Concertmaster Yi Wang 1st Violin Alyssa Conrau Rachel Gamer Ceridwen Jones Rachael Hunt Martin Reddington Elizabeth Ambrose Julien Dupont 2nd Violin Matthew Hassall John Noble Ruby Paskas Mara Miller Philip Nixon Lubino Fernandes Christine Ruiter Edwina Kayser Viola Paul McMillan Jason Bunn Lawrence Jacks Nadine Delbridge Raymond Hope Helen Ireland Cello Diane Froomes Sarah Cuming Philippa Gardner Andrea Taylor Double Bass Davin Holt Dennis Vaughan Flute Lisa-Maree Amos Lorraine Bradbury Oboe Joshua de Graaf Dafydd Camp

Clarinet Bassoon Horn

Trumpet Trombone

Tuba Timpani Percussion Harp

Richard Sholl Andrew Mitchell Lucinda Cran Amanda Lee Jasen Moulton Heather McMahon Linda Hewett Robert Shirley Mark Fitzpatrick Louisa Trewartha Scott Evans Anthony Gilham Eric Klay Jon Woods Guy du Blet Conrad Nilsson Daniel Richardson Mary Anderson

Information in this programme is correct at time of printing and may be subject to change in the future. Norma / PRODUCTION INFORMATION


birth-place in Catania, the progress of the coffin resembled a triumphal procession. During the reembalming of the corpse, hairs were stolen from the head and treated as relics; his autograph was cut up and each letter sold individually. The young Vincenzo had studied music at the College of San Sebastiano, an offshoot of the Conservatorio of Naples, after receiving early instruction from his grandfather and father, both of whom were musicians, and encouragement from his beautiful, cultivated and also musicallyinclined mother.

Sicilian-born Vincenzo Bellini was the most brilliant and romantic of musicians. Tall and graceful, with blond hair, a noble forehead and blue eyes, he died tragically in 1835 at the age of thirty-three, struck down by acute amoebic dysentery which he had probably contracted in Venice five years earlier. At the time of his death he was staying in a village on the outskirts of Paris, trying to escape the succès fou surrounding his opera I Puritani. Ironically, he was to become a cult-figure. In 1863 the publisher Léon Escudier recalled a Bellini ‘blond as the cornfields, sweet as the angels, young as the dawn, melancholy as the sunset’. In 1876, when his body was moved from the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris to his


By the time he finished his studies, Naples had overtaken Venice as the hub of Italian music; its theatre, the San Carlo, was the biggest in the world, and the celebrated Rossini its resident composer. Although Bellini was also invited to compose for San Carlo, clocking up considerable success, he soon deserted Naples for Milan, in whose several theatres people met their friends, drank coffee or wine and exchanged news and gossip, as well as attending performances up to twenty times over. 'Going to the opera' was virtually a way of life. Amazingly, the young Sicilian was accepted immediately into the illustrious La Scala and invited not only to work with the best librettist in town, Felice Romani, but to compose for the superb actress-singer, Giuditta Pasta. Pasta introduced Vincenzo to her friend, another Giuditta (Turina), who became his lover. Yet throughout his life Bellini consciously

avoided committing himself to marriage in order to concentrate fully on his career which was studded with operatic successes: La Straniera (1829); I Capuleti e I Montecchi (1830, for Venice's La Fenice); La Sonnambula in March 1831 and Norma in December of the same year. Romani's libretto is considered to be one of the best ever written. Its immediate source was a fiveact verse play that had been popular on the Paris stage only a few months earlier. Its roots however went back to the Greek myth of Medea, a mother who really did cut the throats of her children in order to wreak revenge on their faithless father, Jason. Romani transposed the setting to ancient Gaul, and the dramatic focus to the inner lives of the lovers in their convoluted and emotionally turbulent story of a Druid priestess (Norma) who has borne two children to Pollione, a Roman general now in love with the virgin priestess Adalgisa. While a good deal of the psychological action is expressed in recitative, the melodies are dynamically involved in every heartwrenching vicissitude - most arrestingly in the famously enchanting aria Casta Diva. This intricate and intimate interweaving of emotion and music, today seen as Bellini's signature mode, has been given the name bel canto; but the origins of the term remain obscure, and it appears not to have come into use until at least twenty years after Bellini’s death. Nevertheless, a common definition - ‘singing

that is one continuous melodic language of the emotions’ - is very apt for Norma, particularly as it was said in reference to Guiditta Pasta, Bellini's preferred prima donna. It is fair to say that although Bellini was a wonderfully romantic figure, he did not behave like a Byronic hero any more than Byron did, channelling his finer feelings into his art while behaving rather more pragmatically in daily life. To take one example, he was so wary of banks that although demanding and receiving a far fatter fee for an opera than either his contemporary Donizetti or the over-worked Romani could ever ask, he entrusted his considerable financial proceeds to Giuditta Turina, while requiring her to pay him five per cent interest. In Milan he ate out only on Fridays and Saturdays, saving his money for dandyish clothes, sometimes ordering two dozen pairs of gloves at a time. But otherwise he poured his aesthetic self-expression like a sparkling wine into glorious melodies, affecting duets, and exquisite arias. His music then and now moved music-lovers in the way that poetry moves lovers of literature, his bel canto displaying ‘delicacy, flexibility and expressive purpose’ in a manner designed to ‘strike the soul’. It was quite simply his forte. Program notes compiled by Judith Armstrong.




Pre-Christian Gaul, during the Roman occupation.

Norma contemplates killing her children, but loves them too much. She decides to let Adalgisa accompany Pollione if she will take the children and be their mother. Adalgisa refuses, trying instead to persuade Pollione to return to Norma.

In a forest sacred to the Druids, their leader Oroveso tries to arouse the Gauls to oppose the Roman occupation. Pollione, the Roman proconsul, tells Flavio that he no longer loves Norma, the High Priestess who broke her vows to bear him two children. He is now enamoured of the virgin priestess Adalgisa. After they leave, Norma ascends the altar, prophesying that Rome will fall; but in such a struggle, will not Pollione come to harm? She prays for peace to the chaste Goddess of the Moon, while the Druids call for Pollione's death. Norma confides her anxieties to Clotilde: Pollione is about to leave for Rome; she longs to go with him, but cannot leave her children. Adalgisa is also distressed, confessing to Norma that she too loves a Roman. Norma offers to release Adalgisa from her vows. Pollione enters, and Norma is enraged to realise that he is the man Adalgisa loves. Pollione invites Adalgisa to go with him, but she refuses out of loyalty to Norma.


In the forest, the Gauls gather for battle. Norma hears from Clotilde that Adalgisa was unable to deter Pollione, and strikes the shield to indicate war. Clotilde announces that a Roman has been seized in the sacred cloister of the vestal virgins. Norma understands that Pollione has tried to abduct Adalgisa, and deserves a sacrificial death. Determined to replace him, she prepares to mount the pyre. Pollione, inspired by her nobility, joins her.


Richard Mills Conductor

PHOEBE BRIGGS Chorus Preparation


Richard Mills is one of Australia’s most prolific and internationally recognised composers. He pursues a diverse career as a composer, conductor and artistic director.

Phoebe completed a Bachelor of Music at the University of Melbourne. She was a member of the Opera Australia music staff between 2002 - 2012 and in October 2012 was appointed Head of Music at Victorian Opera. Phoebe was conductor for Victorian Opera’s 2013 production of Sunday in the Park with George, Opera in the Paddock (Opera Northwest) and was assistant/cover conductor for Don Pasquale (IFAC/Opera Australia, Tokyo), The Magic Flute, The Merry Widow, Die Fledermaus, The Pearlfishers, Così fan tutte, A Little Night Music and The Mikado (Opera Australia) and Guys and Dolls (Ambassador Theatre Group).

Lee has won numerous operatic awards including the 86th Herald Sun Aria. She studied at the University of Melbourne, in Italy, Holland and at the Lisa Gasteen National Opera School. Lee has performed over 16 operatic roles including the title in Madama Butterfly, Mimi La boheme, Marguerite Faust, Violetta La traviata and Valencienne Merry Widow. In 2013, she was a recitalist at St Martin in the Fields, the Edinburgh Festival, and appeared as soloist with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. This year she has been a soloist with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Australian Doctors Orchestra and Melbourne Musicians.

He has held numerous prestigious posts, and received many scholarships, fellowships and awards. He was Artistic Director of the West Australian Opera 1997 – 2012, Director of the Australian Music Project for the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra 2002 – 2008 and Musica Viva’s Composer of the Year in 2008. Richard has been Artistic Director of Victorian Opera since 2013. Richard regularly conducts the leading orchestras and opera companies of Australia and has an extensive discography of orchestral works including his own compositions.

Creative & Cast / BIOGRAPHIES


Carlos E. Bárcenas Flavio



Carlos was born in Colombia and moved to Australia in 2008, where he completed his Bachelor and Masters in Music (Opera Performance) at the University of Melbourne. With Victorian Opera in 2014, Carlos performed the witch in Hansel & Gretel, Gastone de Letorières in La traviata and Games of Love and Chance and in 2013, the Judge in The Magic Pudding – the opera, the Miller in Puss in Boots, as a soloist in Opera on a White Night, and understudied Mao in Nixon in China. Work with other companies include Alexander in Il Re Pastore for Melbourne Lyric Opera, Don Jose in Carmen for Opera in Good Company, Michael for Deborah Cheetham’s new opera Pecan Summer, Sigmund & Siegfried for More Than Opera’s production of The Ring - Wagner Animated.

Nicole Car won the 2007 Herald-Sun Aria, the 2012 ASC Opera Awards and the 2013 international Neue Stimmen competition in Germany. Her roles for Opera Australia have included Mimi, Micaela, Pamina, Leila and Valencienne. Her recordings include Brahms’ Deutsches Requiem for the MSO (ABC Classics), Rule Britannia! for the TSO (ABC Classics) and as Micaela in Carmen for Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour (CD/ DVD - Opera Australia). In 2014, Nicole Car sings Mimi in La boheme, Tatyana in Eugene Onegin and Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni for Opera Australia; she makes her American debut as The Countess in The Marriage of Figaro for Dallas Opera.

Spanish soprano Saioa Hernández has won acclaim as a celebrated soprano for the bel canto repertoire. After studies with eminent teachers including Renata Scotto and Montserrat Caballe, she won the first prizes in both the "Manuel Ausensi" and "Jaime Aragall" Competitions. Hernández made her Italian debut at the Valle D'Itria Festival in Bellini's Zaira, and was also heard in the title role of Norma at the Teatro Bellini in Catania and as Imogene in the Brazilian premiere of Il Pirata in Rio de Janeiro. Her repertoire also includes other bel canto roles such as Donizetti's Anna Bolena and Maria Stuarda as well as the title role in Tosca and Leonora in Il Trovatore.

BIOGRAPHIES / Creative & Cast

Rosario la Spina Pollione


In recent seasons, Rosario La Spina has sung Pinkerton, The Duke, Don José (Carmen), Macduff (Macbeth) and Radames (Aida) in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, Hoffmann in Adelaide and Perth and Verdi’s Requiem in Brisbane and Adelaide; he returned to Seattle as Radames and made his Canadian debut in this same role. The Verdi Bicentenary in 2013 saw him sing Alfredo and The Duke in Perth, Don Alvaro (La forza del destino) in Adelaide, Verdi’s Requiem in Taiwan and New Zealand, Radames in Detroit and Gaston (Jérusalem) in Fidenza; he also performed Don José throughout Japan.

Daniel Sumegi is one of Australia’s leading singers, with a 26-year international career encompassing more than 100 operatic roles. He has sung at many of the world’s major opera houses and continues to expand his repertoire with new music and standard classics. Recently seen in Melbourne’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, he appears in 2014 at Los Angeles Opera (Billy Budd), Opera Australia (Rigoletto, Eugene Onegin), West Australian Opera (The Magic Flute) and Hong Kong Opera (Salome). In future seasons, he returns to Opera Australia, Seattle Opera, Los Angeles Opera and the Metropolitan Opera, New York.

Creative & Cast / BIOGRAPHIES

Iain Grandage & Alison Croggon, based on the novel by Tim Winton

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