Norma and Tosca, two of the powerhouse operas of the current canon are being broadcast this weekend. Both have roles that sopranos covet. Both presentations have sopranos to do justice to the fabulous music of Bellini and Puccini. If you enjoy watching opera on screen as well as live, and I do, these are worthy of a viewing.
Friday night (1/26/18): Public Broadcasting (PBS) will begin its 12th season of Great Performances at the Met with a showing of Norma by composer Vincenzo Bellini and librettist Felice Romani; this is a recording of the October 7, 2017 performance broadcast in cinemas. The staging drew criticism for being too mushy, but the singing by current divas Sandra Radvanovsky and Joyce DiDonato was widely praised. The plot involves Norma, a Druid priestess, who falls in love with Pollione, a leader of the conquering Romans, against whom she and priest Oroveso are plotting a revolt; not only did she fall in love with a Roman, but she has secretly borne him two children. How’s that for balancing your work life and personal life? And there is yet one more complication; Pollione has fallen in love with someone else, a friend of Norma’s, Adalgisa. How do you see this going down? The New York Times review can be accessed here, and additional reviews can be found on the Seasons Listing page. Check your local PBS channel for time. For this one, you can even record it and watch later.
Saturday afternoon (1/27/18): The next Metropolitan Opera’s “In Cinemas” live in HD broadcast will feature Tosca, by composer Giacomo Puccini and librettists Luigi Illica and Victorien Sardu. Tosca is one of the most performed operas of all time and deserves to be, both for the story and the music. I have previously written about Tosca, “Tosca is not the opera to attend to introduce your children to opera. It is violent, even brutally so, and profane, not so much in language, but by deed. It has shocks; there is an attempted rape, two suicides, and two executions. It has one of the most purely villainous characters in performance art. Yet, it is a love story and a story about commitment to higher callings.” I do recommend you go. The love story rises above the dark elements and it is one of the most entertaining operas out there. It is one of the few things I have watched with my son where at one point he said, “I didn’t see that coming.” But perhaps, the best reason for paying the price of admission at your local theater is its star soprano, Sonya Yoncheva, who seems to be slaying audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. Reviews -see sidebar to right – have credited her with saving this production which had a number of scheduled performers drop out. It also features the hot young tenor, Vittorio Grigolo. You can find participating theaters in your area at this link; put your city and state, not zip code, in the search bar. A re-broadcast of this live event will take place in theaters the following Wednesday, January 31; it will be easier to get a desirable seat for the re-broadcasts.