LSM Newswire

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

VO poised to make history again with Golden Anniversary production of Norma

Vancouver Opera Poised to Make History Again with
Golden Anniversary Production of
Stellar cast of Canadian and international voices under the baton of
Maestro Richard Bonynge will rival the legendary 1963 performance

Vancouver, BC ~ In 1963, Vancouver Opera brought Joan Sutherland and Marilyn Horne together under the baton of Maestro Richard Bonynge in a legendary performance of Norma. 46 years later, VO is poised to make history again as Maestro Bonynge prepares to return to the podium, this time with a stellar cast of beautifully complementary voices handpicked to create an equally stunning Norma.

Excitement is building among those who were at that historic performance and those who will be experiencing Norma for the first time. Maestro Bonynge has conducted over 100 performances of Bellini’s bel canto masterpiece and is the world’s leading musical authority on this haunting, tender opera. There is no one alive who knows this work as well as he.

“I don't think you'll find any better singers for Norma than we have here, “ Maestro says of VO’s 2009 cast. An audio clip of his thoughts on this production of Norma can be found at

Singing the title role is soprano Hasmik Papian, currently the world’s most in-demand Norma. Joining her will be tenor Richard Margison, singing the role of Pollione. Born in Victoria, Mr. Margison was in New York just weeks ago, where he delivered striking performances of Radames in Aida at the Metropolitan Opera.

Bringing a fresh, accomplished voice to the role of Adalgisa will be mezzo-soprano Kate Aldrich in her VO debut. Bass Alain Coulombe, last seen in VO’s Carmen, sings Oroveso.

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.

Details on the Artists
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 2008’s 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 season’s 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 VO’s Artistic Director during the 1970s, he founded the VO Orchestra, which gave its first performances in 1977. VO is pleased to salute the company’s 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 VO’s 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.

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

Norma is one of the great bel canto masterpieces. Vincenzo Bellini’s haunting melodies, dramatic scene-painting and tender and intense emotions have been praised by no less than Richard Wagner, who loved the opera’s 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.

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.



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