March From Norma


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Norma E. She was a student at local schools, and during a time when young people were more often found in the workplace than they were in the classroom Norma graduated from Thornapple Kellogg Schools in It was as a young woman that Norma met the man of her dreams. He was a square dance caller with a crazy hat named Adrian Lipp, and they met at a talent show in Hartford in when she and her sister were singing a duet. Sparks flew right from the start, and they were soon deeply in love. Norma and Adrian moved to the Paw Paw area where he worked as a farmer and as a custodian for Bloomingdale Schools.

Norma had learned how to weave rugs out of rags from her mother, which she sold to help make ends meet. They built a very primitive home just north of Paw Paw, which was so rustic that it only had two rooms and no electricity or plumbing. Over the years they added a basement and a bathroom, enlarged the kitchen, and added bedrooms as they welcomed four children into their hearts and home: Marjorie, Dortha, Patricia, and James. Throughout their married lives Norma and her husband were simple people who lived a simple life.

She was a fantastic cook who always made sure that there was a good meal on the table with fresh ingredients from their massive garden. Norma made the best chicken and rice in her own unique way, and her homemade donuts and bread were a family favorite. Sunday dinners usually consisted of chicken and dumplings. On one occasion Norma took her children to see the construction of the Mackinaw bridge, but for the most part there was never enough extra money for vacations, however, they found fun activities that were simple and free.

Norma was an avid reader who went to the library on a weekly basis to check out a stack of books. Of course she required that her children do the same to enhance their reading skills. Usually Dortha had to read to Norma while she was preparing dinner as education was always of the utmost importance to Norma. She was so proud that all of her children graduated from high school and that three of them also had college degrees. She and her husband enjoyed square dancing, and later in life they did some traveling to places like Niagara Falls, North Carolina to visit his brother, and to the Grand Canyon.

Norma put her skills in the kitchen to good use working in a bakery for a few months where she especially enjoyed making wedding cakes. In fact, she kept making cakes at home for several years to earn some extra money.

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Norma was a gifted seamstress who made clothes for her family from old feed sacks and coats from blankets; as the kids got older, she was able to purchase fabric with which to make clothing. When clothes wore out and weren't able to be passed down she made them into rag rugs. She regularly made hand towels both to give away as gifts and to sell.

It goes without saying that Norma certainly knew how to stretch a dollar! She also knew how to knit, canned everything, had numerous house plants, and loved cats so much that they were running all over the house to the point of being overpopulated. Donzelli provided Bellini with precise details of his vocal capabilities which were confirmed by a report which the Neapolitan composer Saverio Mercadante also provided.

By the end of August it appears that Romani had completed a considerable amount of the libretto, enough at least to allow Bellini to begin work, which he certainly did in the first weeks of September as the verses were supplied. I hope that you will find this subject to your liking. Romani believes it to be very effective, and precisely because of the all-inclusive character for you, which is that of Norma. He will manipulate the situations so that they will not resemble other subjects at all, and he will retouch, even change, the characters to produce more effect, if need be.

Norma was completed by about the end of November. While, for Romani, it became "the most beautiful rose in the garland" of all his work with Bellini, [4] it was not achieved without some struggles. Bellini, now at the height of his powers, was very demanding of his librettist and required many re-writes before he was satisfied enough to set it to music. After rehearsals began on 5 December, Pasta balked at singing the "Casta diva" in act 1, now one of the most famous arias of the nineteenth century.

She felt that it was "ill adapted to her vocal abilities", [6] but Bellini was able to persuade her to keep trying for a week, after which she adapted to it and confessed her earlier error. Solemn fiasco! In addition, in a letter to his uncle on 28 December, Bellini tried to explain the reasons for the reactions. As other commentators have also noted, some problems were innate to the structure and content of the opera, while others were external to it.

Bellini discusses the tiredness of the singers after rehearsing the entire second act on the day of the premiere as well as noting how certain numbers failed to please—and failed to please the composer as well! But then he explains that most of the second act was very effective. It appears from the letter that the second evening's performance was more successful and Weinstock reports it was from this performance forward that it "was recognised as a successful and important opera" with performances given at La Scala alone by the end of the 19th century.

Among the external reasons, Bellini cited the adverse reaction caused by "hostile factions in the audience" [5] consisting of both the owner of a journal and his claque and also of "a very rich woman", who is identified by Weinstock as Contessa Giulia Samoyloff, the mistress of the composer Giovanni Pacini. On Bellini's part, there had long been a feeling of rivalry with Pacini ever since the failure of his own Zaira in Parma and his return to Milan in June With no firm contract for a new opera for Bellini, Pacini's success with his Il Talismano at La Scala—where it received 16 performances—fueled this rivalry, at least in Bellini's head.

It was only when he staged a triumphant revival of his own with Il pirata with the original cast that he felt vindicated. Pirata received 24 consecutive performances between 16 July and 23 August , thus outnumbering those for Pacini's opera. In all, Norma was given 34 performances in its first season at La Scala, and reports from elsewhere, especially those from Bergamo, when it was staged in late , suggested that it was becoming more and more popular. Between and Weinstock provides details of the dozens of performances given in numerous cities outside of Italy, and then he gives details of those beyond.

Bellini left Milan for Naples, and then Sicily, on 5 January and, for the first time since , became a year in which he did not write an opera. Richard Wagner conducted Norma at Riga in Following the common nineteenth-century practice of adding interpolated arias , he wrote an aria for the bass and men's chorus for this production.

Wagner wrote at the time that Norma was "indisputably Bellini's most successful composition". In these days of romantic extravaganzas and the hyper-excitement of the so-called musical attractions he presents a phenomenon which can hardly be overrated. The action, free from all theatrical coups and dazzling effects, reminds one instinctively of a Greek tragedy.

Perhaps the views expressed by Schiller in his 'Bride of Messina' to the effect that he had hopes for the full revival of the tragedy of the ancients upon our stage, in the form of the opera, will receive new justification in this Norma! Let anyone name me a spiritual painting of its kind, more fully carried out, than that of this wild Gaelic prophetess Every emotional moment stands out plastically; nothing has been vaguely swept together Here, where the poem rises to the tragic height of the ancient Greeks, this kind of form, which Bellini has certainly ennobled, serves only to increase the solemn and imposing character of the whole; all the phases of passion, which are rendered in so peculiarly clear a light by his art of song, are thereby made to rest upon a majestic soil and ground, above which they do not vaguely flutter about, but resolve themselves into a grand and manifest picture, which involuntarily calls to mind the creations of Gluck and Spontini.

Charles Theatre in New Orleans on 1 April There, the "Guerra, guerra" War, war! During the 20th century, with the bel canto revival, the most prolific Norma was the Greek-American soprano Maria Callas , who gave 89 stage performances several of which exist on live recordings as well as two on studio versions made in and Many other notable sopranos have performed the role, so that in modern times, Norma continues to be quite widely performed. Operabase shows performances of 62 productions in 51 cities given or planned to be given since 1 January The title role—"one of the most taxing and wide-ranging parts in the entire repertory" [23] —is one of the most difficult in the soprano repertoire.

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It calls for great vocal control of range, flexibility, and dynamics as well as containing a wide range of emotions: conflict of personal and public life, romantic life, maternal love, friendship, jealousy, murderous intent, and resignation. That comes of itself. But in Bellini, you must always have a care for beauty of tone and correct emission. Throughout the 20th century, many singers have taken the role of Norma.

She made two studio recordings of the opera for EMI, and several broadcasts of her live performances have been preserved from the early s through her final performances of the role in Paris in Following Sutherland's debut as Norma, Luciano Pavarotti called her "the greatest female voice of all time. The Dutch coloratura Cristina Deutekom tackled the role in Also singing Norma during this period were Grace Bumbry and Shirley Verrett , the American divas who began as mezzo-sopranos and eventually started singing soprano repertoire.

In in Dortmund [27] and at the Salzburg Festival the role was taken by mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli : this version was also recorded with coloratura soprano Sumi Jo as Adalgisa. On 13 April , the Italian bel canto soprano, Mariella Devia , after a career of 40 years and one day after turning 65, successfully made her debut as Norma at the Teatro Comunale di Bologna. The action takes place in Gaul under the Roman occupation, and exposes the love affair between Pollione, Roman proconsul, Norma, his former companion, and the young Adalgisa.


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The background is the uprising of the Gallic people against the occupier, led by the druid Oroveso. Norma, high priestess of the druidic temple who had two children of Pollione breaking her chastity vows Roman proconsul, discovers that her lover is in love with her friend a young priestess Adalgisa. Norma tries to convince him to give up Adalgisa and return to her, but he refuses. Norma then publicly confesses her fault and is sentenced to death.

Pollione is convicted for pursuing Adalgisa in the temple and goes to the stake with Norma. All leave to go to the temple.


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Pollione and Flavio enter. Although Norma has secretly broken her vows in order to love him and has borne him two children, Pollione tells Flavio that he no longer loves her, having fallen in love with the priestess Adalgisa. They hear the trumpets sounding to announce Norma's arrival. All kneel as she approaches. Continuing, she pleads that the goddess shed upon earth that peace which she has created in heaven. She calls for all to complete the rites and then clear the uninitiated from the grove.

To herself, she declares that she cannot hurt Pollione, but desires that things return to where they used to be: Cabaletta: "Ah! The assembled crowd accepts her cautious approach, and all leave the grove. Later that night: The Temple of Irminsul in the grove. Adalgisa prays at the temple, remembering with some sorrow how she became involved with Pollione.

He enters, telling her that she prays to a cruel god and is not trying to invoke the god of love. She resists him, but finally appears to agree that they will leave together the following day. Norma appears to be upset and orders her maid, Clotilde, to take the two children away from her, expressing very conflicted feelings about them.

She tells Clotilde that Pollione has been recalled to Rome, but does not know if he will take her or how he feels about leaving his children.

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As Adalgisa approaches, the children are taken away. Adalgisa tells Norma she has fallen in love with a Roman, whom she does not name.

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Adalgisa pleads for help and forgiveness, and Norma pledges that she will do that and will also free her from her vows as a priestess: Norma: "Ah! Norma asks Adalgisa to describe the man whom she loves. Responding, she tells her that he is a Roman, and, at that moment, turns to indicate that it is Pollione who is just then entering the room. Forcing the priestess to realise that she is the victim of a huge deception, Norma addresses Adalgisa. Trio: each sings in succession, beginning with Norma: "Oh! There follow angry exchanges among the three, Norma declaring Pollione to be a traitor; he trying to persuade Adalgisa to leave with him; and she angrily telling him to go away.

When he declares that it is his fate to leave Norma, she encourages the young priestess to go with him, but the latter declares that she would rather die. Norma then demands that her lover go, leaving behind his children—and his honour. Finale: brief duet, Adalgisa and Pollione: he declares his love, and she her desire to Norma not to be the cause of grief to her.

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