Los Angeles Review by Willard Manus

L.A. Opera went from strength to strength with its follow-up to MOBY DICK, Bellini’s bel canto masterpiece, NORMA. As Joseph Kerman said in “Opera As Drama,” the two great dramatic themes of bel canto opera are “the conflict of strong personalities and the thwarted love plight (also a rebellion against happy endings).”


photo: Ken Howard

Soprano Angela Meade plays Norma, the Druid priestess whose subjects are chafing to overthrow their Roman conquerors. Norma is outwardly patriotic and combative, inwardly conflicted and thwarted by her secret love for the Roman proconsul Pollione (Russell Thomas). The rascally Pollione, Norma soon learns, has been having an affair with a younger princess, Adalgisa (Jamie Barton). It leads to violent confrontations and stormy passions–in short, melodrama (better known as grand opera).

The greatness of NORMA lies in the music, Bellini’s exquisite melodies, and in the singing, which calls for greatness in every aria sung by the principals (including bass Morris Robinson as Norma’s father, Oroveso). It’s a pleasure to report that the four key singers, backed up by Rafael Moras as Flavio and Lacey Jo Benter as Clotilde, were in magnificent voice, making God-like sounds that soared forth and thrilled the audience for all three hours of the opera’s length.

In this all-American production of NORMA directed by Anne Bogart and conducted by James Conlon, Meade and Barton proved themselves to be two of the greatest sopranos singing today.

(Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Ave. Call 213-972-8801 or visit