Music ReviewsMUST SEEOperaREVIEWSTom Williams


Music by  Vincenzo Bellini.

Libretto by Felice Romani,

based on the play Norma by Alexandre Soumet.

Stage Director; Kevin Newbury.

Conductor: Riccardo Friazza.

At the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Famed bel canto opera soars with fine vocals and wonderful melodies.

Vincenzo Bellini (1801 -1835) was admired by Wagner and Verdi and a prolific composer despite living only thirty-four years. Know for long flowing melodic lines and female heroines, his masterwork was Norma (1831) with famed librettist  Felice Romani.  This opera contained one of the most difficult bel canto roles that challenged soprano greats such as Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland because 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. I am happy to report that Sondra Radvanovsky, after a shaky start, delivered a fine performance as Norma at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

In the new-to-Chicago production, Norma has an impressive forest set (design by David Korins) that depicts Druid tribe in 50 BC in Gaul as they are conquered by the Romans. This opera is about a love triangle that finds Norma (Sondra Radvanovsky) , the Druid high preset married to Pollione (tenor Russell Thomas), the Roman governor. They have two children. But Pollione falls in love with Adalgisa (mezzo-soprano Elizabeth DeShomg), Norma’s friend and novice Druid priestess. This love triangle is fueled by betrayal, love and pathos. With Thomas’ strong vocals as Pollione and the fantastic duets by Radvanovsky and DeShomg, the bonding between the women leads to tragedy.

From the beginning, Norma has a somber tone that becomes intense upon the haunting melodies that work with the extreme bel canto attributes to create a romantic atmosphere that inevitably leads to tragedy.   Norma is a wonderful opera that engages, enchants and entices audiences.  The fabulous aria: “Mira, o Norma” duet — in which Adalgisa tells Norma to “look at your dear children” was my favorite among several terrific arias. Bellin’s melodic score runs from catchy to powerful rumbling as the tragedy unfolds. Norma is a most compelling work that assures Bellini place as a master bel canto composer. This production is visually stunning as it is sung with gusto. Radvanovsky,Thomas and DeShong deliver excellent performances.

Highly Recommended.

Tom Williams.

Date Reviewed: January 28, 2017.

For more info checkout the Norma page at

At Lyric Opera of Chicago at Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker, Tickets: $49 – $269, Info: (312) 827-5600;