LSM Newswire

Friday, November 13, 2009

Legendary Maestro returns to podium in VO's Norma

Legendary Maestro Richard Bonynge Returns To Podium For Vancouver Operas ĮNORMA
Production features powerful Armenian soprano Hasmik Papian, star Canadian tenor Richard Margison, and sensational mezzo-soprano Kate Aldrich

Vancouver, BC ~ A living legend of the opera podium and three of the worlds most thrilling singers come together for Vancouver Operas season-opening production of Bellinis Norma, November 28 - December 5, 2009. Stunning, searing and filled with raw emotion, Norma will transport audiences with gorgeous singing and tragic drama about the harsh realities of love across enemy lines.

Legendary maestro Richard Bonynge returns to VO after beginning his 47-year career at the very same podium in 1963. On stage will be Armenian soprano Hasmik Papian, one of the worlds most in-demand Normas; celebrated Canadian tenor Richard Margison, fresh from performances of Aida at The Metropolitan Opera; and fast-rising mezzo-soprano Kate Aldrich, who has been getting rave reviews everywhere she sings.

Opening night is Saturday, November 28, 2009, with subsequent performances Tuesday, December 1, Thursday, December 3 and Saturday, December 5. All performances take place at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Georgia and Hamilton Streets, Vancouver B.C. and begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets starting at $29 are available exclusively at the Vancouver Opera Ticket Centre, online at or by telephone (604-683-0222). See complete ticket information below.

This haunting and dramatic opera of love across enemy lines has only been performed in Vancouver three times, the last time being almost 20 years ago. Norma was first staged by VO in 1963 under Founding Artistic Director Irving Guttman, with rising young stars Joan Sutherland and Marilyn Horne. For this Golden Anniversary production, original conductor Richard Bonynge is back 46 years later, ready to again lead this tender and intense opera.

The Story in Brief
Ancient religion and modern military force clash in this gripping and tragic tale. Passion leads to death when Norma, a powerful Druid priestess, has a secret affair and two children with Pollione, the commander of the occupying Roman army. When she discovers that Pollione has seduced a young acolyte, Norma faces her own terrible guilt and pays for her betrayal of her people through a shocking act of self-sacrifice. Read a full synopsis at

The Singers
Making her VO debut is Armenian soprano Hasmik Papian, who has appeared at The Metropolitan Opera and in leading houses around the world. Ms. Papian is featured on the definitive DVD version of Norma, on the Pro Arte label. She is sure to impress with raw emotion and vocal fireworks as she takes on one of the most difficult opera roles in the repertoire.

Canadian tenor (and Victoria native) Richard Margison, sings Pollione, the Roman commander whom Norma cannot resist. Mr. Margison, who last appeared with VO in memorable performances as Florestan in 2008s Fidelio, has been described as magnificent, sublime, and radiating.

Also making her VO debut is mezzo Kate Aldrich as Adalgisa. Among many roles, Ms. Aldrich has been praised for her fiery Carmen at the Met and San Francisco Opera, and for her touching Adalgisa in Miami. In many ways the American mezzo-soprano Kate Aldrich stole the show... Aldrich is destined for operatic stardom! raved the Miami Coral Gables Gazette.

Bass Alain Coulombe, who charmed audiences as Zuniga in last seasons record-breaking Carmen returns to sing the archdruid Oroveso. Also appearing are John Arsenault as Flavio and Barbara Towell as Clotilda.

Conducting the Vancouver Opera Orchestra and Vancouver Opera Chorus (Leslie Dala, Chorus Director) will be celebrated Maestro Richard Bonynge. Maestro Bonynge conducted his first opera, Faust in Vancouver in 1963. That same year he conducted Joan Sutherland and Marilyn Horne in the now-legendary performance of Norma. During his tenure as VOs Artistic Director during the 1970s, he founded the VO Orchestra, which gave its first performances in 1977. VO is pleased to salute the companys venerable history by welcoming Maestro Bonynge to the podium to kick off the Golden Anniversary season.

The stage director is Emmy-nominated Tazewell Thompson, who helmed VOs memorable production of Dialogues of the Carmelites in 2005. Born in New York City, Mr. Thompson wrote and directed the acclaimed musical Constant Star. He was nominated for an Emmy Award for Best Director for the televised performance of his production of Porgy and Bess.

Norma is one of the great bel canto masterpieces. Vincenzo Bellinis haunting melodies, dramatic scene-painting and tender and intense emotions have been praised by no less than Richard Wagner, who loved the operas rich flow of melody and deep glow of truth.

The role of Norma is considered one of the most difficult in the soprano repertoire, not only for the vocal control required, but also for the tremendous range of emotion: romance, maternal love, friendship, jealousy, murderous intent and resignation. The aria Casta Diva was one of the most familiar of the nineteenth century and remains popular today. Norma has also been a signature role of Maria Callas, Beverly Sills and others.

Norma premiered at Teatro alla Scala in Milan on December 26, 1831. Unlike Bellinis other operas, the premiere was a fiasco, yet the second and all subsequent performances were received with extraordinary acclaim.

Although Norma is considered one of the best examples of bel canto with its lyrical singing, it was also innovative for its long, sustained melodies, dignified fervour and feeling of earnest truth. Richard Wagner praised it: I admire its rich melodic vein together with its most intimate passion; a score which speaks to the heart and is the work of a genius.

Full Ticket Information
Single tickets starting at $29 (plus handling fee) are available from the Vancouver Opera Ticket Centre, online at, or by phone at 604-683-0222. Visa, MasterCard and American Express are accepted.
Groups: For special pricing for groups of ten or more, call 604-683-0222.

Learn More
Opera Speaks @ VPL a free public forum:
Monday, November 9, 2009, 7-9 pm
Alice MacKay Room, Vancouver Public Library, Central Branch
Admission is free.
The Golden Age of Vancouver Opera.
Join Richard Bonynge, Irving Guttman, and William Littler (former Music Critic at the Toronto Star) for an evening of nostalgia and celebration, as VO looks back at its first 50 years.



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