The opera is regarded as a leading example of the bel canto genre, and the soprano prayer Casta diva in Act I is justly famous. Notable exponents of the title role in the post-war period have been Maria Callas, Joan Sutherland, Montserrat Caballé and, in the 2007, Biondi-Minasi critical edition based on Bellini's autograph score, Cecilia Bartoli.
Felice Romani (after "Norma, ossia L'infanticidio" ("Norma, or The Infanticide") by Alexandre Soumet)
- Pollione, proconsole di Roma nelle Gallie (Roman proconsul in Gaul)
- Oroveso, capo dei druidi (Norma's father; Chief of the Druids)
- Norma, druidessa, figlia di Oroveso (daughter of Oroveso, High-priestess of the Druids)
- Adalgisa, giovane ministra del tempio di Irminsul (priestess in the grove of the Irminsul statue)
- Clotilde, confidente di Norma (Norma's friend)
- Flavio, amico di Pollione (Pollione's companion)
Narrator, Recitant, Speaker
- Due fanciulli, figli di Norma e Pollione
- Druidi, Bardi, Eubagi, sacerdotesse, guerrieri e soldati galli
Norma – Casta diva (Sonya Yoncheva, The Royal Opera)
The priestess Norma leads her people in a prayer for peace. Sonya Yoncheva sings the title role in Bellini's masterpiece, with the Royal Opera Chorus and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House conducted by Antonio Pappano, recorded September 2016. Find out more at http://www.roh.org.uk/norma
Bellini’s bel canto masterpiece Norma had its premiere at La Scala, Milan, on Boxing Day 1831. After a muted initial response the opera quickly became popular, and is now a mainstay of the repertory. Norma is perhaps most acclaimed as a vehicle for the lead soprano, most famously now by such 20th-century greats as Maria Callas, Montserrat Caballé and Joan Sutherland. Indeed, Bellini provides some astonishing vocal fireworks for his title character – most famously ‘Casta diva’, Norma’s Act I hymn to the chaste moon, and Act II’s ‘Dormono entrambi’, as she contemplates the unthinkable act of killing her children. But the opera’s dramatic potency rests in its breathtaking ensembles, most strikingly in Norma’s duets with Pollione and Adalgisa, the Act I trio ‘Vanne, sì: mi lascia, indegno’ and the blistering Act II finale.
This new production of Norma was The Royal Opera’s first in nearly thirty years. Directing is Àlex Ollé, of the Catalan collective La Fura dels Baus, reunited with the creative team behind his acclaimed production of Oedipe. They give Norma a contemporary setting against a backdrop of a cruel civil war, and focus on the opera’s exploration of the conflict between an individual’s own desires and those of her society – and of religion as a force for unity and for destruction.