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Tragedia lirica in two acts
Libretto by Felice Romani after Alexandre Soumet's tragedy Norma ou L’Infanticide (1831)
First performed December 26 1831, Teatro alla Scala, Milan
Sung in Italian with English & German surtitles
ca. 2 hours 45 minutes, including 1 interval
an introductory talk, in German, begins in the upstairs foyer 30 minutes before every performance
Bellini and Donizetti breathed new life into Italian opera in the first half of the 19th century, drawing on English romanticism (Lord Byron) and French horror-romanticism. Felice Romani, the librettist for Bellini's greatest masterpiece, Norma, was inspired by Soumet's tragedy about the child murderer Norma and Chateaubriand's novel Les Martyrs (1808). Romani changed the wild celtic woman into a multi facetted character: the seer Norma became involved with her people's deadly enemy: she has two secret children with the Roman proconsul Pollione. But he is now attracted to another, younger woman: he has been summoned back to Rome and intends to take the novice Adalgisa with him. Torn between love and her sacred vow of chastity, Adalgisa seeks Norma out and tells her all. After she came close to killing her children out of desperation and all hopes have been dashed that Pollione will come back to her, she proclaims war on the Romans. Pollione is attacked in the temple and sentenced to death. Norma, who still loves him, tells her horrified people of her indiscretion and offers her life instead of his. She ends up on the funeral pyre.
Bellini combines »beautiful singing« (bel canto) with realistic, multi layered characterisations of the main protagonists. Norma's apparent super human status as a druid with prophetic powers does not prevent her from being a human figure, who fate moves us, the chaste moon goddess - »Casta Diva«. The balance between proud dignity, violent emotional outbursts and almost endless melodies in Bellini's work was greatly admired by Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner. The young Norwegian director Sigrid Strøm Reibo sets out to tell the story of this strong woman, who sacrifices her own life, to a present day audience.