• Norma


    Rosa Ponselle as Norma



    Norma was absent from the MET, since the times of Lilli Lehmann, whose last performance in the role was back in 1891.

    Lehmann herself, an artist of an almost incredible flexibility, able to sing more than one hundred roles, from Wagner to Bellini to Mozart, said about Norma: "the most difficult role of all... It should be sung and acted with fanatical consecration, rendered by the chorus and orchestra especially, with artistic reverence, led with authority by the conductor, and to every single eighth note, should be given the musical tribute that is its due"

    Tullio Serafin prepared Rosa Ponselle to be able to sing again the druidess in the MET, in 1928. This was a 'tour de force' for the american soprano, as she can indeed manage well the recitative, the dramatic intonations, the demanding low notes... but it will be very difficult to achieve a similar mastery of the fioriture, or the high end of the role extension.

    With some very good fellow singers in the casting (Lauri-Volpi, Ezio Pinza, Marion Telva), Ponselle was able to face Norma, and get an enthusiastic response from the audience... somehow toned down by the critics.

    Today, only the cavatina (and mutilated), plus the duo "Mira, o Norma" have survived in recordings. Judging from this, Ponselle was indeed a fantastic priestess, hieratic and imposing, detached from everydays world and into a higher plane... However, her ability to incarnate also the lover, the mother, the friend,... to be judged only by the duo, will always be a matter of operatic debate, unless a miraculous recording would appear to settle the issue.





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