In this outstanding John Conklin production from Cincinnati Opera, set during the Roman occupation of Gaul in 50 B.C., a passionate love triangle in the midst of a deepening culture clash leads to dangerous consequences. A Druid high priestess, Norma, is in the throes of despair after learning her lover, a Roman proconsul with whom she has two children, has been unfaithful.
Starring Elza van den Heever • Marina Costa-Jackson • Yonghoon Lee • Christian Van Horn • Mithra Mastropierro • Charles Karanja
Conductor Emmanuel Villaume • Director: Nic Muni • Set and Costume Designer John Conklin • Lighting Designer Thomas Hase
Opera in Brief
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The High Priest Oroveso and members of a Druidic cult meet at their temple to prepare for the rites of winter solstice. They pray to their god, Irminsul, that Norma, High Priestess and Oroveso’s daughter, will declare war on the Romans and end their occupation
After the Druids leave, Pollione, Proconsul of the Roman forces, arrives. His Celtic aide, Flavio, urges him to go, but Pollione insists on staying to meet Adalgisa, a priestess whom he loves. Flavio is distressed to learn that Pollione plans to abandon Norma, who has secretly borne him two children during the long Roman occupation. He cites the risks of engendering Norma’s rage. Pollione acknowledges this, recounting a terrifying dream in which Norma savagely avenges herself for his infidelity.
The Druids return to perform their ritual. Norma warns that their warlike posture is futile and commands them to wait until Rome falls through its own vices. A group of virgin priestesses enters, Adalgisa among them. Norma cuts the sacred mistletoe and makes a burnt offering to the moon goddess. She promises to declare war on the Romans should the god Irminsul appear to her but reserves the right to kill Pollione herself. Privately, however, she longs that his love for her be rekindled.
As everyone leaves, Adalgisa stays behind to impore the gods to eradicate her feelings for Pollione, at which point the Proconsul returns and declares his love. Fearing that his dream may be a prophecy, he entreats Adalgisa to accompany him to Rome, where he has been ordered to return the next day. Adalgisa agrees.
Norma reveals her ambivalent feelings toward her children as she waits for them to be brought to her by Clotilde, who cares for them in secret. Aware of Pollione’s order to return to Rome and his aloofness toward her, she fears he will abandon them. Hearing Adalgisa approach, Clotilde hides the children. Adalgisa confesses that she has fallen in love and asks Norma to forgive her and release her from her vows. Norma is sympathetic as she remembers her own love. Just as she agrees, Pollione appears. It becomes clear to Norma that it is he who has stirred the young priestess to love, and she furiously condemns him. Adalgisa, shocked to learn of the relationship between Pollione and Norma, vows to remain faithful to the High Priestess.
Although certain that her children are doomed to suffering as slaves or outcasts, Norma finds herself unable to kill them. Instead, she makes Adalgisa promise to go to Rome with Pollione and raise the children as her own. But Adalgisa insists on confronting Pollione and convincing him to return to Norma.
Oroveso and the Druids are gathered at the temple to secretly plan an attack on the Romans, when a Roman detachment arrives to inform Oroveso of the identity of the Roman Consul who will be replacing Pollione, a man reputed to be more savage and brutal. Oroveso takes this as a sign to abandon their planned attack and counsels his fellow Druids to feign submission and patiently await their chance to rebel.
Norma anxiously awaits the outcome of Adalgisa’s mission and upon learning that it has failed, sounds the signal for war. As she prepares a sacrificial victim, uproar is heard in the inner temple and Pollione, who has been captured, is brought before her. Dismissing the Druids, she attempts to bargain with Pollione. He refuses to renounce Adalgisa, offering his own life instead.
Norma summons her followers and informs them that a priestess has broken her vow and must be sacrificed. However, it is not Adalgisa she indicts but herself. She reveals to Oroveso the existence of her children and exacts his promise to care for them. Pollione, moved, feels his love for her reborn and requests to die with her. Devastated, the Druids witness Norma’s ascent to the pyre and, with her, the destruction of their temple.
Synopsis courtesy of Florida Grand Opera
Elza van den Heever (Norma) South African soprano Elza van den Heever is one of the most demanded sopranos of her generation. She has sung at many leading opera houses including the Bavarian State Opera in Munich (Lohengrin, Don Giovanni), the Hamburg State Opera (Don Giovanni, I Lombardi), the Opéra National de Paris (Così fan tutte), the Opéra National de Bordeaux (Ariadne auf Naxos, Il trovatore, Alcina, Anna Bolena, Norma, Don Carlo), the Zurich Opera (Lohengrin), the Theater an der Wien (Der Freischütz), the Vienna Konzerthaus (Il tabarro), the Metropolitan Opera (Don Giovanni, Maria Stuarda) the Dallas Opera (Così fan tutte) and the Lyric Opera of Chicago (Rinaldo), as well as the Canadian Opera in Toronto (Il Trovatore).
Aviva Fortunata (Norma May 7th) Italian-Canadian soprano Aviva Fortunata has been praised as being “blessed with a gorgeous voice of richness and amplitude” (Musical Toronto). Ms Fortunata was a finalist in the 2016 Operalia Competition in Guadalajara, Mexico, where she performed under the baton of Maestro Plácido Domingo Representing Canada in the 2015 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition, she was a finalist for the Song Prize. A graduate of the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio, Ms Fortunata’s assignments at the company included Contessa Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro, Fiordiligi in Così fan Tutte, the title role in Norma, Anna in Maometto II, Alice Ford in Falstaff, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, and Ellen Orford in Peter Grimes. Ms. Fortunata is a graduate of the prestigious San Francisco Opera’s Merola Opera Program.
Marina Costa-Jackson (Adalgisa) Soprano Marina Costa-Jackson made her professional debut as Musetta with Michigan Opera Theatre in La Bohème and debuted the role of Leonora in Il Trovatore in Hong Kong. She also sang Verdi’s Requiem with Teatro Municipal de Santiago. She has also performed in concert with Andrea Bocelli at Madison Square Garden in New York, and with Dmitri Hvorostovsky in Moscow and Minsk. Recent engagements include Mimi at Opera Köln and with the Welsh National Opera, Adalgisa in Norma in her debut with the Dallas Opera, and her Seattle Opera debut as Fiordiligi in Così fan Tutte. Ms. Costa-Jackson is also a 2015 Met Opera National Council winner and an Opera and Zarzuela grand winner at Operalia 2016.
Yonghoon Lee (Pollione) Korean born Yonghoon Lee has established himself internationally as a leading tenor of his generation. He has made debuts at most of the most prestigious theaters in the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alla Scala, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Bavarian State Opera in Munich, Frankfurt Opera, Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Rome Opera, Vienna State Opera, Semper Oper in Dresden, Hamburg State Opera, Australian Opera and Deutsche Oper Berlin. In addition to Dallas, recent and upcoming engagements include Manrico in Il trovatore at the Metropolitan Opera and Bavarian State Opera, Turiddu in Cavalleria rusticana at Covent Garden and the Metropolitan Opera, and Don Jose in Carmen with Opera Australia, Turiddu in Cavalleria rusticana at The Paris Opera, and the title role in Andrea Chenier at San Francisco Opera.
Christian Van Horn(Oroveso) Bass-Baritone Christian Van Horn has appeared in many of the great opera houses of the world including the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, Canadian Opera Company, and Bayerische Staatsoper, and at the Salzburg and Munich festivals. His many roles include the title role in Le nozze di Figaro, Colline in La bohème, Alidoro in La cenerentola, Timur in Turandot, Banquo in Macbeth, Oroveso in Norma, Zaccaria in Nabucco , the Four Villains in Les Contes d’Hoffmann, and Escamillo in Carmen. He has also recorded the title role of Le nozze di Figaro for SONY Classical. Mr. Van Horn is a graduate of the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists at the Lyric Opera of Chicago and was a winner of the 2003 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.
Mithra Mastropierro (Clotilde) Mithra Mastropierro, soprano, hailed by the New York Times as an artist to watch for her “penetrating top notes”, is a graduate of Mannes College who recently made debuts as Norma and Abigaille at the Croatian National Theater in Osijek to great acclaim. She has since returned to Croatia for additional performances of Norma and Nabucco. In the summer of 2015, she covered Lady Macbeth and sang the Lady in Waiting in Glimmerglass Festival’s Macbeth starring Eric Owens, directed by Anne Bogart, and under the baton of Maestro Joseph Colaneri. Most recently, she joined the roster of the Lyric Opera of Chicago for Nabucco and returned to the Croatian National Theater in the title role in Tosca. Bellini’s Norma marks her Dallas Opera debut.
Charles Karanja (Flavio) Tenor Charles KaraTenor Charles Karanja, from Nairobi, Kenya, recently completed his Master’s Degree in Voice Performance at Southern Methodist University. Some of his past performances include the role of Judge Danforth in Robert Ward’s opera The Crucible, the Duke of Mantua in Verdi’s Rigoletto, and Dandini in the Dallas Opera Outreach production of The Billy Goats Gruff. He has made appearances as the tenor soloist in performances of Handel’s Messiah. Most recently, Charles has performed the roles of Bastien in Mozart’s Bastien and Bastienne with the Dallas Opera Outreach program as well as Tamino in SMU’s production of The Magic Flute. This upcoming season he will sing the role of Don Giovanni in TDO’s Outreach production of The Three Little Pigs.
Emmanuel Villaume (Conductor) Entering his fourth season as Music Director of The Dallas Opera, Mo. Emmanuel Villaume returns for three productions in the 2016/17 season. He opens TDO’s season leading performances of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, followed by the highly anticipated return of Jake Heggie’s Moby Dick, which debuted at The Dallas Opera in 2010. In March, Villaume revisits his acclaimed interpretation of Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette at The Metropolitan Opera. The Chicago Classical Review praised Villaume’s conducting of Roméo et Juliette at the Lyric Opera of Chicago last season, proclaiming, “Villaume is almost without peer in this repertory, and his conducting provides a virtual seminar in how French opera should be performed.” Villaume returns to TDO to conduct Norma in April, followed by his return to the Santa Fe Opera.
Nic Muni (Director) A native of New Jersey, Nic Muni received his formal education at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in vocal performance, conducting and theater work with Herbert Blau. Recent projects include Elektra, starring Christine Goerke, at Michigan Opera Theater, Don Giovanni at San Diego Opera, Don Pasquale at San Francisco Opera Merola Program, Così fan tutte at The Academy of Vocal Arts (November, 2013), Payne Hollow/The Turn of the Screw at Bard Conservatory of Music (world premiere, March, 2014), Don Giovanni at Opera Company of Philadelphia (April, 2014), La Finta Giardinera (San Francisco Opera Merola Program), Cardillac (Opera Boston), Carmen (Boston Lyric Opera), L’amico Fritz (San Francisco Opera Merola Program), US premiere of Das Liebesverbot (Glimmerglass Opera), and The Love for Three Oranges (Indiana University).
John Conklin (Set and Costume Designer) John Conklin has designed for the Metropolitan Opera; the New York City Opera; the New York Shakespeare Festival; San Francisco Opera; Lyric Opera of Chicago; Glimmerglass Opera; Opera Theatre of St. Louis; Santa Fe Opera; Seattle Opera; and the opera companies of Houston, Dallas, San Diego, Washington, and Boston. In addition to his numerous Broadway and off-Broadway credits, regional theaters where he has worked include the American Repertory Theatre, the Goodman Theatre (Chicago), the Long Wharf Theatre, Hartford Stage, Arena Stage, the Guthrie Theatre, Center Stage (Baltimore), and Actors Theatre of Louisville; international credits include English National Opera; the Royal Opera, Stockholm and the opera companies of Munich, Amsterdam, and Bologna, among others.
Thomas Hase (Lighting Designer) Thomas C. Hase is excited to be back in Dallas. His body of work includes most of the theatre and opera companies in the United States including Santa Fe and Los Angeles Opera. In New York his work has been seen on Broadway, Off Broadway, New York City Opera and BAM Next Wave Festival. He has designed throughout Europe, Asia and South America including: Bayerische Staatsoper, Malmö Opera, The Barbican and Sadler’s Wells in London, Opera North, The Abbey Theater in Dublin, Riverdance, The Dutch, Finnish and Columbian National Operas, Opéra de Marseille, Canadian Opera Company, The Luminato Festival, Singapore Arts Festival, and Tokyo Metro Arts Center. Mr. Hase is head of lighting & design for Cincinnati Opera for 20 years. More information is available at Haseltd.com.
Alexander Rom (Chorus Master) is a native of Kharkov, Ukraine, and holds a Master’s Degree in Choral Conducting from Leningrad Conservatory of Music. Since immigrating to the U.S., he has worked as a performer, conductor, educator, voice teacher, opera coach, and composer. He has been the chorus master for The Dallas Opera since 1990 and an opera coach with the Metropolitan Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Savonlinna Opera Festival, Cincinnati Festival, and Ravinia Festival. He has worked with world renowned singers including Paul Plishka, Mirella Freni, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Jorma Hynninen, Helga Dernesch, Martti Talvela, Joyce DiDonato, and Jerry Hadley. Maestro Rom is an honorary Visiting Professor at Sibelius Academy Helsinki Conservatory and was a Visiting Professor at Savonlinna Opera Festival Music Institute.