Marjorie Owens (Norma) and Jennifer Holloway (Adalgisa)
I was at the English National Opera's Norma yesterday evening - or rather the Opera North Norma lovingly and effectively restaged at the Coliseum by Christopher Alden with a splendid cast delivering astonishingly fine bel canto singing in the English language! For me the whole evening was a consistent pleasure bar the odd one or two details in both singing and staging - none of any overall consequence. I am astonished at the negative reaction of some critics to this production which carried the hall marks of intellectual rigour, detailed work with fine singers, and story telling of the clearest nature - as is typical of the work of the exceptional American director Christopher Alden. I was engrossed for the whole three hours - and I am pretty often rather difficult to please!
Our two ladies, Marjorie Owens and Jennifer Holloway, so perfectly matched in their duets were near flawless throughout notwithstanding the request for indulgence from the ailing Miss Owens - she seemed to be in fine form to me.....I know Owens from Chicago of course, and Jennifer Holloway has made her strong mark at Santa Fé and Glyndebourne. But Bellini's special requirements were new territory for them both I fancy - and they were utterly persuasive.
The superb ENO chorus made its usual fine contribution, as did the company's orchestra with the authoritative and utterly authentic Stephen Lord in the pit. This was a great ENO evening and I am appalled that it has received such a grudging welcome.
I need to write at more length about the situation at ENO where its heart seems to be about to be ripped out........but that is another story for the coming days. I am in Lisbon tomorrow until Thursday evening and should have time to craft something!