March 06, 2019

Norma is Not To Be Missed

After a 20-year hiatus, Bellini’s bel canto masterpiece Norma is back at Lyric in a new production that’s getting rave reviews. Here’s a sampling to whet your appetite.

Sondra Radvanovsky as Norma

“Radvanovsky brings dramatic, vocal thrills to Norma,” proclaims the Chicago Tribune. The review calls the Berwyn-born soprano “today’s Norma of choice in major opera houses around the world….Radvanovsky earned the clamorous ovations she received....The diva sent jolts of vocal electricity through the Civic Opera House….With Italian conductor Riccardo Frizza, a first-rate Italian opera specialist making a welcome Lyric podium debut, the performance boasted more than enough vocal thrills, elegant orchestral playing, and committed choral singing...” Some of those thrills came from mezzo-soprano Elizabeth DeShong as Adalgisa, praised for “her velvety, focused and pliant vocalism,” and from tenor Russell Thomas,  whose “clarion declarations…sent frissons of excitement through the theater when he simply stood back and let his firm, hefty voice rip….Lyric’s Bellini team is as good as it gets in today’s opera world.” 

Elizabeth DeShong as Adalgisa

The Chicago Sun-Times calls the production “elegant” and “visually intriguing,” praising the “superb singing by both its soloists and chorus,” and the orchestral playing “impeccably conducted by Riccardo Frizza….Among the most moving moments are the intimate ones, particularly those in which Norma recalls the ecstasy of her initial love for Pollione, and later joins voices with Adalgisa in an act of feminine bonding….[Radvanovsky] is a thoughtful, graceful actress, and when she blends voices with DeShong, whose powerful mezzo never wavers…the notion of bel canto is very much alive....[and] absolutely sublime….The handsome set design…is the work of David Korins, who also created the world of Hamilton. It confirms him as an artist…who in this case can conjure a pagan world with a certain magic born of a grove of towering silver and gold tree trunks, the most delicate snowfall and a giant mythic bull (all masterfully lit by Duane Schuler).”


"The Adalgisa of mezzo-soprano Elizabeth DeShong enlightens and enlivens the story...with vocal and emotional depth...she is the Marilyn Horne of our time," raves NewCity. "As Pollione, Russell Thomas’s tenor throbs so ardently...Lyric-favorite Sondra Radvanovsky is stupendous as Norma, using her amazing acting, balletic sense of movement and dramatic coloratura instrument to embody a character and share a performance that must be seen. Every note from her lovely throat has an emotional impetus, with all the pianissimo and fioritura perfectly in place and in service to Norma’s nobility and humanity."


Picture This Post notes that Norma is “THE bel canto opera that was the inaugural performance for Lyric in 1954, and the American debut for the soprano superstar of that time, Maria Callas. American soprano Sondra Radvanovsky…has what it takes to fill the big shoes of that legendary performance. Her amazing coloratura singing – with orchestra and without – simply sizzles….an absolute powerhouse of vocal range and vocal effect….Norma is not to be missed….Highly recommended.” 

New Lyric Opera coproduction of Bellini’s Norma generously made possible by

Julie and Roger Baskes

Earl and Brenda Shapiro Foundation

Estate of Venrice R. Palmer

Coproduction with San Francisco Opera, Canadian Opera Company, and Gran Teatre del Liceu.

Photos: Cory Weaver, Andrew Cioffi