On Norma


Yesterday — what luck! — a final dress rehearsal for Norma at the Metropolitan Opera. The first thing we note, incredibly enough, is that the audience on average is even older than the one into which we immersed ourselves the other night at Aida. Can you imagine it? What a rare oasis from capitalism! How distant and irrelevant the tedious world of commerce and stock exchanges seems here, where the only currency is free tickets to the show, a chance to reflect on our past under the brilliant halo of artistry instead of the maudlin light of nostalgia.

And what an opera! What performers! Even at this ungodly hour — the rehearsal starts at 11 am — they give us their souls. We are quickly engrossed in Bellini’s bel canto society, ruled by high priestesses and pagan gods; as we watch Norma and Adalgisa reaffirm their “friendship,” only one thought of the modern world intrudes: a female commandeer-in-chief and her aide-de-camp, pledging allegiance to each other at the expense of the world around them? Is this not what we could expect from the election of Rudy Giuliani and his lesbian lover Bernard Kerik?

For the rest of my life
I shall always stay with you.
The earth is big enough
To shelter us both from love.
Together with you, courageously,
We shall fight outrageous Destiny,
As long as in our breasts
Our loving hearts shall beat…

But we could be persuaded to vote for anyone who could sing with even 1 percent of the beauty of Hasmik Papian (the Norma) and Dolora Zajick (Adalgisa). How do they do it? We could never tire of such beauty and technique! To hear their voices in perfect coloratura sync is to imagine Odysseus lashed to the mast of his ship, listening to the Sirens, longing to be steered to his death.

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