A Miraculous Belle of Bellini

July 13th, 2010

NEW YORK POST | While the rest of the civilized world rallied ’round the World Cup finals Saturday, opera buffs flocked to Caramoor for something they found just as thrilling: the emergence of a brilliant new interpreter of “Norma.”

Bellini’s 1831 tragedy of a Druid priestess who violates her vow of chastity for the love of an enemy Roman general requires the utmost of a soprano’s vocal and emotional range.It’s tempted most of the great divas of history to try to meet its demands. Now Angela Meade, 32, has shown she’s ready to join the exclusive sorority of great Normas.

The Washington state-born soprano boasted a creamy middle register, flexible top notes and a thrilling, aggressive snarl in the chest register, ideal for expressing the character’s frequent outbursts of rage. She also wielded an exquisite legato for her opening prayer to the moon (“Casta diva”) and her tearful farewell to her children in the final act.

To be sure, of the role’s many high C’s, a couple turned glassy, and the singer’s declamation of the poetic Italian text lacks nuance. But by any standard, Meade’s is a very fine Norma — and, as a first attempt at this Mount Everest of a role, it’s simply a miracle.

Partnering her in the score’s close-harmony duets was soprano Keri Alkema as the betrayed novice Adalgisa. Despite a lingering husky quality (allergies?), she boldly attacked the imaginative and wide-ranging vocal ornaments devised by conductor Will Crutchfield. As Norma’s father, the high priest Oroveso, Daniel Mobbs spun out a polished bass-baritone that lacked only booming low notes.

Tenor Emmanuel di Villarosa made the adulterous Roman Pollione even more despicable than the plot required, yowling out of tune and yelping his high notes. Crutchfield’s tempos, stiff in the slower numbers, galloped thrillingly in the two finales.

By James Jorden, New York Post

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