Norma at Washington National Opera (Norma)

April 3rd, 2013

“Of the four Normas I’ve heard live in the last ten years, Angela Meade is by far the best.”

—  Washington Post “Classical Beat”, Anne Midgette (March 2013)

“When you’ve got two vocal powerhouses like Meade and Zajick, the production doesn’t really matter … you had two women on stage who really know how to sing. …The Act I Norma-Adalgisa scene culminates in the quintessential dueling-sopranos duet (Zajick is a mezzo, but Bellini didn’t necessarily see the role that way), which involves both women repeating the same music, each going up to a high C: Meade offered a stunning, floating pianissimo, and Zajick sweetly responded with another one, which she held out even longer. Opera singing is partly an athletic feat; healthy competition can motivate great performances, and I’d venture that the energy between Meade and Zajick helped them both step it up a notch.”

—  Washington Post, Anne Midgette (March 2013)

Angela Meade a radiant ‘Norma’ in dazzling WNO debut

“The Washington National Opera continued to unroll its Spring 2013 performance season this weekend with an astounding, nearly perfect new production of Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma at the Kennedy Center Opera House. In her debut performance of the title role in a fully staged production, exciting young soprano Angela Meade thrilled WNO devotees with her nearly mind-blowing mastery of Bellini’s most challenging music. Everyone in the hall was spellbound by her performance of this signature solo Saturday evening in her first-ever WNO appearance. As she began to sing, it took only a few bars before everyone in the opera house knew that something special was happening as the room fell almost completely silent. The nuance, the delivery, the quiet passion and compassion that lie locked within the printed pages of Bellini’s score—all this and more was suddenly and entirely liberated by a lustrous, wide ranging, and generous soprano instrument that reached deeply into heart and soul unearthing again and again, the profound, emotional human longing for peace, love, compassion and understanding that all of us share yet rarely seem to acknowledge. The emotion was there, most certainly, but so was this singer’s exceptional command of technique. Breath control, articulation, precise yet almost imperceptible mini-crescendi and decrescendi added to the magical effect produced by her voice—an effect further burnished as it was by the perfection of her phrasing and diction. Still another marvel was the seeming effortlessness of her ornamentation and passagework, offered not as attention-getting, crowd-pleasing coloratura acrobatics, but as understated, gossamer-winged embellishments of the underlying theme.”

—  Washington Times, Terry Ponick (March 2013)

“On Friday night, Angela Meade brought her prodigious gifts to perhaps the most daunting role in the bel canto repertoire, the Druid priestess in Bellini’s ‘Norma.’ … Meade’s stage debut as Norma carries an asterisk, since she sang it in concert at the Caramoor Music Festival in the summer of 2010. She was impressive then and now, in her mid-30s. She has grown into the role and sings it with more assurance and daring. She also showed some welcome emotional identification with the character’s suffering, though there is room for her interpretation to deepen. Her vocal range and technique are awesome, especially when she’s spinning out a ravishing high note.”

—  Associated Press, Mike Silverman (March 2013)

Meade was clearly born to sing the role of the Druid priestess who has broken her vows for the love of the Roman proconsul Pollione. To hear Meade spin out the famous ‘Casta Diva’ in Act 1, pleading for peace in exquisitely sculpted phrases, is a rare, intense pleasure. She is just as spellbinding much later when Norma, before sacrificing herself on a funeral pyre, pleads with her father, Oroveso, to protect the two children she had by Pollione. The tenderness of Meade’s singing here would melt a stone; confronted with such expressive beauty, Oroveso would surely have forgiven his daughter had she confessed to two dozen un-priestess-like offspring.

“The Adalgisa in this production is the terrific Dolora Zajick, who matches Meade practically note for note in terms of vocal elegance and coloratura gleam. The two blend seamlessly and exquisitely in their Act 2 duet. Even people who swear there will never be anything as exciting as Sutherland and Horne in this duet may start to waver after hearing these two.”

—  Baltimore Sun, Tim Smith (March 2013)

Angela Meade Riffs on Her Dazzling New Role as She Debuts Norma at Washington National Opera                                   

Angela Meade ruled the stage as Norma last Saturday in an alluring new production at Washington National Opera, and judging from the ovation after her first aria and the ‘bravas’ at the finale, this singer will now add another glittering success to her list of plaudits. Since March of 2008, when Meade stepped into the Met Opera’s Ernani to replace an ailing colleague, her career has taken off with dazzling speed. And after hearing her sing the title role in Bellini’s bel canto masterpiece, I believe this young soprano, just 35, has the plush, distinctive voice–the gleaming beauty and agility–and dramatic chops to justify her reputation as a rising star. From her opening notes in the Kennedy Center Opera House, Meade, who describes herself as ‘a lyric soprano with a big coloratura extension,’ gave her Norma luster and conviction, and as her nuanced portrayal gained momentum, she made an effortless transition from Druid high priestess to scorned lover to tender mother to vengeful warrior. Her tone was seamless from top to bottom, and she spun long, gorgeous lines with heart-breaking pianissimos, then declaimed the recitative with bite and passion. It’s no wonder she’s often compared to those iconic divas, Sutherland and Caballe, who excelled at bel canto.

—  Huffington Post, Susan Dormady Eisenberg (March 2013)

Soprano Angela Meade was a knockout in the title role, which she is singing on stage for the first time. … Meade deployed her velvety voice to give a truly beautiful finish to this mother of all bel canto roles, with a suave, hypnotic Casta diva, for example. There was power in Meade’s voice, too, allowing her to soar over the orchestra and to stand her ground with the much more experienced and frankly just louder Adalgisa of Dolora Zajick, but it was the elegance of the performance that remains with me, both in Meade’s calm presence and in the cleanness and warmth of her tone.

—  Ionarts, Charles T. Downey (March 2013)

Angela Meade is spectacular in Norma

People in the opera world travel miles to hear a voice like Angela Meade’s. Many made such a pilgrimage Saturday night.  In the soprano’s debut in the fully-staged production of Norma at the Washington National Opera, this voice proved pretty spectacular. … Meade cast out note after note into space like a spider throwing out a silken thread then riding it, dangling, dropping down, bobbing as in a breeze fantastically, climbing back up, all seemingly effortlessly. She has a way of building power then suddenly lifting off into a high space as if threading her voice through the eye of the smallest needle, seemingly a tiny gem of a sound but one heard in every corner of the Opera House.”

—  DC Theatre Scene, Susan Galbraith (March 2013)

A Spellbinding Priestess

“As Angela Meade, star of Washington National Opera’s new production of ‘Norma,’ stepped onstage Saturday night, a palpable tension hovered over the opera house. The Druid high priestess is the role of a lifetime, and Meade was standing in the historic shadow of the greats who made this character their own — Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland spring most readily to mind. Yet from Meade’s first commanding lines to a ravishing pianissimo, she quickly demonstrated that this was to be a night to remember. … Her acting skills, both vocal and physical, drew the audience into rapture during the most intimate moments, whether contemplating killing her own children or taking to the pyre in an act of defiant truth.”

—  Washington Blade, Gary Marzullo (March 2013)