BLO "Norma": Bellini with Peaches & Champagne

Elena Stikhina as "Norma"
(Photo: Boston Lyric Opera)

An illustration in the Arts section of a recent newspaper said it all: a picture of a ticket to a live event with its ominous printing: Admit None. With what seemed to be warp speed, suddenly there were no symphony concerts, no live theater, and no opera. And just when it seemed a creative catastrophe had stricken, some artistic people suddenly are appearing (and performing) at a computer near you. For example, check out playbill.com's offerings on their twice-daily emails, which can become a part of one's day via a (free) subscription. And there was more good news on the home front: Boston Lyric Opera was going to broadcast its eagerly-awaited production of Bellini's Norma in conjunction with WCRB, by streaming at blo.org/norma with the Russian soprano Elena Stikhina (a hit in the company's performances of Tosca a few seasons ago) in the title role. Break out the peaches and champagne!

Though there are photos of the costumes and the sets on the company's website (this performance is an audio stream of the dress rehearsal for the production), and they appeared to be just fine, it would obviously be the musical elements that would stand out in this case. Expectations were actually exceeded. Something about the real presence of the cast and orchestra imbued the event with an immediacy one rarely experiences. Stikhina excelled with virtually perfect precision, from her first (vocal) appearance to her final demanding mad scene; forced to focus on the audible, one was quite blown away by her pitch, tone and expression (especially in her Casta Diva). The same could be said for the Pollione of American tenorJonathan Burton and the Adalgisa of BLO regular, mezzo-soprano Sandra Piques Eddy, not to mention the orchestra (led by Conductor David Angus) and chorus (under Chorus Master Brett Hodgdon) in what would ultimately prove to be a triumph of artistry over angst.

For an all-too-short spell, this Norma showed us what opera at its most moving and memorable can be. And the ability to support the company with a donation (via the same web site) in this time of trial cannot be underestimated. We are all grieving for our current loss of normalcy; one of the most effective ways in which to reestablish our norms is to ensure that, after this has all passed, there will be beauty, there will be music, there will be joy.

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