Newbury’s Norma on DVD

Kevin Newbury’s production of Bellini’s Norma made it to Toronto via San Francisco, Barcelona and Chicago with Sondra Radvanovsky singing the title role (at least some of the time) in all four cities.  It was recorded for DVD and Blu-ray at the Liceu in Barcelona in 2015.  Watching the DVD didn’t change my opinion of the production.  Here’s what I said about it on opening night in Toronto:

Kevin Newbury’s production is perhaps best described as serviceable.  I have seen various rather desperate efforts made to draw deep meaning from it but I really don’t think there is any.  That said, it looks pretty decent and is efficient.  The single set allows seamless transitions between scenes which is a huge plus.  So, what does it look like?  It’s basically a sort of cross between a barn and a temple with a back wall that can raised or moved out of the way to expose the druids’ sacred forest.  There’s also a sort of two level cart thing which characters ascend when they have something especially important to sing.  Costumes were said to have been inspired by Game of Thrones; animal skins, leather, tattoos (which actually don’t really read except up very close), flowing robes.  Norma herself appears to be styled, somewhat oddly, on a Klingon drag queen. The lighting is effective and there are some effective pyrotechnics at the end.  All in all a pretty good frame for the story and the singing.

There did seem to be far fewer pyrotechnics in the Barcelona staging though (either that or the video direction pretty much ignores them).

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The Scottish opera

Verdi’s Macbeth is one of those early works where he seems to be trying to grow out of bel canto but not quite making it.  There is some splendidly dramatic music and some that just seems completely incongruous given the subject matter.  The witches’ chorus at the beginning of Act 3 is a case in point.  That said Phyllida Lloyd’s production for the Royal Opera House takes the piece seriously and does a pretty good job of presenting the drama in a straightforward but visually attractive way.

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