Is the sacrificial bull in Norma meta-symbolizing a Texas Barbecue or Merrill Lynch?

This season at the Canadian Opera Company opens tonight with Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma. As I followed the surtitles and unfolding of the story on the stage during the dress rehearsal, the following statement of the director Kevin Newbury notes in the libretto reverberated in my mind: “ Although we have set the production in a mythic, Game of Thrones –inspired milieu, Norma feels very contemporary to me.”

Unfortunately it does not appear that Mr. Newbury’s feelings about contemporariness of Norma were communicated to the other members of his team, and Mr. Newbury missed this opportunity to share how exactly does the contemporariness of Norma feel to him. The set designer David Korins and the costume designer Jessica Jahn have collaborated in several projects with Mr. Newbury in the past. They both have documented their creative achievements on their web sites demonstrating sensible approach to the marketing of their accomplishments and skills. What is missing, however, is the artistic vision. The invisible unifying net that ties the parts together is the greatest shortcoming of this production.  So the unanswered question remains open to the spectators and listeners: where and how is the story of Norma reflected in today’s world?

Here is a possible angle that may reveal something about Norma and its contemporariness.  Read it before the curtain opens and follow the surtitles with the following imagery in your mind while carefully reading the surtitles and lay back to surrender to superb singing of Sondra Radvanovsky, Russell Thomas, Isabel Leonard, Dimitry Ivashchenko, Aviva Fortunata and Charles Sy.

Instead of Druid forest picture a forest of identical tombstones, such as those seen in military cemeteries. Arlington cemetery is a good example of such a cemetery. Imagine the characters of this opera in the renown characteristic images and outfits of the following personalities:


Norma:          Angela Merkel

Pollione:        Uncle Sam

Adalgisa:       Anonymous Arabian Princess

Oroveso:       Georg Soros

Clotilde:       Christine Lagarde pretending to be Federica Mogherini

Flavio:         Jens Stoltenberg


Norma’s and Pollione’s children: a boy wearing folk German short pants  and baseball game-warmer jacket and a cap with a global corporate logo, and a girl dressed in burkini like outfit and a Muslim style head scarf holding a blood stained doll.

Druids are European pro and contra immigrant demonstrators. The drama takes place in the suburbs of Calais jungle and/or European coastal points of arrival of Syrian refugees. Follow this cast throughout the opera or vary it to your liking and be surprised how contemporary Norma really is. Make no mistake that the aria Casta diva is a prayer to a deity of the Moon.

Determine whether the giant sacrificial bull in the final scene is a symbol of Merrill Lynch or a Texas barbecue and argue your choice with your friends.

P.S. Those in contact with Mr. Stephen Lord, the Norma’s  conductor should advise Mr. Lord that it is a silly  attempt to fight Sondra Rodvanovsky’s voice projecting over the orchestra. The audience may report hearing injuries. And with today’s ever novel  sources of liability. it is better not to engage in a literal game of decibels.

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