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Bellini's opera is truly epic in every sense.

Norma, Opera North, Theatre Royal BELLINI'S opera has it all: seething revolt, love, passion, betrayal, revolution, sacrifice and death all in two hours 50 minutes of breathtaking action and joyous music.

It's easy to see why it's rarely performed. The female leads have to travel through an octave range rarely heard in opera.

Plus Christopher Alden's action-driven direction mean they have to sing at times while lying on the floor.

Norma (Annemarie Kremer) is a powerful druid in Roman-occupied Gaul. There's much dissatisfaction among the locals with their Roman oppressors and revolution is in the air. The complication is that Norma's lover is the Roman proconsul Pollione (Luis Chapa), who is also father of her two sons.

The turning point, however, is when Norma discovers Pollione's infidelity with her novice druid Adalgisa (Keri Alkema). Then there's hell to pay.

What is essentially a love triangle is beautifully enmeshed within the betrayal of their pagan religious sect and a subsequent uprising against the Romans.

The set is a large oak tree trunk ordained with pagan symbols, denoting the forest connection.

Like a proper hero, Norma selflessly gives herself to the cause while taking Pollione down with her. It's full-on blood and snots and dramatically moving as she leads him down the oak tree to the flaming funeral pyre.

Kremer and Chapa are superb as singers and actors while Alkema and James Cresswell (Norma's father) give top-notch support.

As individuals their voices are captivating but when the leading trio's singing overlaps, it is pulsating and divine.

Norma can be seen again tonight at 7pm.

Ed Waugh


JOYOUS MUSIC Alex Sykes, left and Alfie Walls-Shaw in Norma
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Mar 10, 2012
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