In the first half of the 19th century, the most important aspect in opera productions was deemed beautiful singing, “bel canto”, vocal mastery combining paramount technique and emotive performance, with the legendary prima donnas’ artistry of the time serving as an endless source of inspiration. The inception of Norma, the best-known opera by the Italian composer Vincenzo Bellini (1801–1835), was instigated by the phenomenal Italian soprano Giuditta Pasta (1797–1865), who, following numerous international triumphs, was scheduled to appear at La Scala and for her Milan debut wished a new opera by Bellini. The librettist Felice Romani reached for an older text of his, based on Alexandre Soumet’s tragedy Norma, ou L’infanticide. The story is set in the time of the Roman occupation of Gaul and the main plot is the secret marriage of Norma, the High Priestess of the Druids, and Pollione, the Roman proconsul in Gaul. The immense success of the premiere at La Scala, on 26 December 1831, was also down to Giuditta Pasta, who had initially turned down the part of Norma owing to its being extremely challenging. The opera was only staged in Prague in 1835, when it was sung in Italian at the Estates Theatre. The National Theatre first took over a production from the Provisional Theatre and performed it on 5 October 1884 in Václav Alois Svoboda’s Czech translation. Bellini’s Norma has not been staged in the building housing today’s State Opera for some 110 years. The new State Opera production will be created by the Japanese opera director Tomo Sugao in tandem with the outstanding Slovak designer Boris Kudlička.
The performance is sung in Italian. Czech and English subtitles.
Approximate running time, including intermission: 2 hours, 55 minutes, one 20-minute intermission.
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