Pappano`s Norma it certainly was tonight as a very flat,bland and meaningless direction from La Fura dels Baus put a damp squid on this Pappano’s first Bellini performance in London.
Thank God (see all those crucifixes) for Pappano’s music that gave a very static production at least some musical impulse from the pit.
A wondrous sounding Norma in Sonya Yoncheva replacing the originally proposed Anna Nebtrenko who just did not feel up to this monstrous role.
But oh how we yearned for some real dramatic partecipation alla Callas or even at this point alla Caballe.
An admirable Pollione was Joseph Calleja who also seemed oh so static.
Adalgisa was,on the other hand an excellent and much experienced Sonia Ganassi.
I remember going to the first festival of the” Valle d`Itria “in the wonderful town of Martina Franca in Puglia (the boot of Italy!).
I was invited by the British Council in the 1970`s to hear Grace Bumbry sing the role of Norma for the first time . I well remember the piano rehearsal in the courtyard of the Palazzo Ducale where the choir from Cambridge(the reason I had been invited ) had been engaged to take part.
The organisers I remember well for their unforgettable names of Archangelo and Messiah as befits the superstitious people of those parts in the depth of Italy.
La Bumbry was preparing the part of Norma because she had always sang the part of Adalgisa the mezzo.
However she had been engaged at Covent Garden,where I was tonight, to alternate with Montserrat Caballe in the title role of Norma.The genial but totally impractical idea was that they would alternate the two roles of Adalgisa and Norma ..
Of course in the end la Caballe had no intention of learning the secondary part and stuck to the title role as befits a real diva!
Wonderful orchestral playing tonight under Pappano that was the real motor that kept the train in motion from the pit as on stage it was painfully obvious that they had not much of a clue what they were doing and why they were doing it!