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Subject: Norma - Canadian Opera Company
From: Stephen Charitan <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Stephen Charitan <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Thu, 20 Oct 2016 06:28:03 -0400
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After seeing her performance of “Norma” in Toronto last Saturday I would
have to say that Sondra Radvanovsky not only owns this role in the present
but she has claimed a place in its performance history alongside its
greatest interpreters.  I’ve seen “Norma” more than any other opera in my
40+ post-Callas years of attending live performances – Sutherland and
Caballe at the vocal pinnacle with several honorable mentions (Verrett and
Scotto), and many, many “also rans.”  Radvanovsky is in the Sutherland /
Caballe class when it comes to vocal refulgence and she goes both ladies
one better in the drama department.  In terms of bringing the “total
package” to bear, she is in Callas territory.
She was on form the moment she walked on stage -  the grandeur of
“Sedizioze Voce” followed by the time stopping poise of “Casta Diva” and
then the exhilaration of the cabaletta.  Her feel for the architectural
span of this scene was subliminal in the moment, but something that
astounds when you reflect on the whole.  She is a “Mastersinger,” though I
hope she avoids Wagner to dig deeper into the Bel Canto.  I can hear
Cherubini’s “Medea” in that voice as well as  Bellini’s “La Straniera.”
Isabel Leonard was a lovely Adalgisa, blending beautifully with Radvanovsky
in the duets, but when push was required in the duet with Russell Thomas as
Pollione, she simply disappeared.  Thomas was a thrilling Pollione bringing
power and nuance to his Act I aria and matching Radvanovsky’s splendor in
their Act 2 confrontation.  Conductor Stephen Lord was one of the few
positives when I saw “Norma” at the ENO earlier this year and here as there
he understood the flexibility needed by the singers to bring their
characters to life.
As mentioned, my last “Norma” was the ENO Alden production which played all
the subtext on top so it was a relief to see Kevin Newbury’s visually
attractive production (sets - David Korins,)  not fighting the libretto.
My only objection was watching  Norma and Adalgisa put away the children’s
toys while singing “Mira O Norma.”  Whatever else Norma may be she is not a
hausfrau – all the pathos needed for the scene was contained in the
plaintive voice of Sondra Radvanovsky.
I have posted a few curtain call shots on Opera L's facebook page for
anyone interested.
Steve Charitan
Hudson, OH

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