Norma - Metropolitan Opera, 9/25 and 10/3/2017
Radvanovsky, DiDonato, Calleja, Rose, Bradley, Diegel / Rizzi
Perhaps it looked good via cinema, but David McVicar's new production of Norma was, in the house, a prime example of less-than-the-sum-of-its-parts, an overall framework that turned what could have been a landmark event into a somewhat deflating disappointment. It's not all bad. The production itself has numerous excellent touches, not least the moonlit rite that introduces Norma and "Casta Diva". But the relentlessly narrow range of visual contrast and definition - moonlight to firelight, with the leads all dressed in dark shapeless outfits after that first ritual - obscures to the minds as much as to the eyes of the audience the individual subjectivity that should, as the defining feature of romantic opera - burn in glorious intensity throughout.
It seemed, oddly, designed for routine revival - to obscure the physically inert, perhaps unshapely singers likely to fill this show in the future (indeed, as soon as December). But to hide Sondra Radvanovsky and Joyce DiDonato - whose arresting stage presences have been as notable as their virtuosity - in an endless gloom without even spotlights deflates the show in person as surely as bad sound compression seems to have deflated the moviecast. (Anyone brought to the house by the striking photos of the leads in the posters plastered around the city is likely to have been disappointed.)
I'm honestly not sure whether the singing got better from opening night to last Tuesday or whether I tried more just to listen rather than take in the compromised dramatic whole. More on that after Wednesday. Going forward, I suppose that as Paule Constable is also lighting the new Cosi, we should be worried about that... though in this case it's surely McVicar's over-fondness for a "realistic" production texture (which previously weighed down his Anna Bolena that's most responsible.