Second Italian guest brings Norma and La bohème to Savonlinna
The opera season continues in full swing. During the first week in August, the Teatro Regio Torino from Italy is staging two unforgettable gems in Olavinlinna Castle: Puccini’s La bohème and Bellini’s Norma.
Youthful La bohème
By contrast, the cast of Puccini’s La bohème is made up of young – though already extremely experienced –singers. In choosing Erika Grimaldi to sing Mimì and Stefano Secco for Rodolfo, the aim was, says Teatro Regio’s General Manager Vergnano, to capture the original spirit of the opera.
“The opera is about young people under the age of 20 who encounter the beauty and ugliness of life, love and grief. For the performance to be credible, the soloists must have the freshness of youth.
“La bohème means a lot to us because it was premiered in Turin with Arturo Toscanini conducting in 1896. The Teatro Regio Torino is now giving the opera its premiere performance at the Savonlinna Opera Festival.”
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Norma the biggest challenge for any soprano
The part of the Gallic druidess Norma is generally regarded as one of the most difficult in the operatic repertoire. According to Walter Vergnano, the Teatro Regio’s General Manager, Norma and her famous aria Casta diva are still so closely associated in people’s minds with the legendary mid-20th-century singer Maria Callas that every Norma thereafter has automatically been compared with her. This is one reason why this key work in Italian operatic literature is so seldom performed even in its homeland. The sights have been set artificially high.
“It poses a mental block for us Italians,” says Vergnano. “The Callas myth lives a life of its own, even though half a century has already passed since she gave up singing, and there aren’t many in the audience who ever heard her live.”
Some fine new singers are, says Vergnano, nevertheless taking the stage. In his opinion, Elena Mosuc, who will be singing the part of Norma in Savonlinna, well withstands comparison with the legendary Callas.
“She did one of the most beautiful Traviatas I’ve ever heard for us. I’m sure no one listening to her will need to shed a tear for legends in the past.”
The rest of the cast is likewise excellent, he says.
“I don’t believe you’ll find a better trio of soloists anywhere else. Gregory Kunde, as Pollione, is possibly the greatest tenor around at the moment, and Michele Pertusi, bass, perfectly completes the trio. Having them in the same performance is a real bonus.”
Buy tickets for Norma here.