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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La finta giardiniera in glorious white and white

Mozart’s La finta giardiniera is pretty thin stuff.  The libretto is dreadful.  The fits of madness start before the opera gets going when Count Belfiore tries to murder his fiancée Marchioness Violante.  She runs off and becomes a gardener aided by her man-servant Roberto.  There’s another gardener, Sarpetta, who is being wooed by Roberto (alias Nardo) and Violante’s (now Sandrina) boss the mayor has a niece, Arminda, who now plans to marry Belfiore to the dismay of her former lover Ramiro.  And along the way the mayor, Don Anchise, gets the hots for Sandrina.  Throw in a whole lot of confusion about Sandrina/Violante’s identity (because she keeps claiming that she’s not Violante or is just pretending to be Violante depending who she is talking to) and it’s no wonder that everyone goes mad at least once.  Frankly the audience has every right to as well.  And there’s three hours of this.  The music is OK.  It’s Mozart at 18 and he’s writing to a formula most of the time.  So we get workmanlike but predictable arias and ensembles that only occasionally hint at what is to come in the later operas.


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