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Norma Highlights with Maria Callas on The Lyric Stage Sunday March 24

Maria Callas as Norma helped revive interest in bel canto opera.

This week we have highlights from Vincezio Bellini's Norma, with Maria Callas in the title role. Norma was one of her signature roles, and she sang it over forty times in her relatively short career.

Norma is the high priestess of a druid cult in first century Gaul and as such is sworn to chastity. However she has secretly loved a Roman pro-consaul, Pollione, with whom she has had two children.

Adalgisa, Norma's protégé, confides in Norma that she is torn between her feelings for a Roman soldier and being faithful to her vow of chastity as a priestess. Norma learns that the Roman is Pollione, her lover. She rages and threatens the lives of their children as well as the life of Adalgisa, but is unable to follow through.

An intruder is caught in the quarters of the virgin priestesses. It is Pollione, and he is brought in under guard. He refuses to renounce his love for Adlagisa. Norma calls the Druids to her and states that a priestess has broken her vows and will be sacrificed in the sacred pyre. The Druids demand the identity of the vow-breaker. She replies, “It is I.” Norma’s fearlessness rekindles Pollione’s love and admiration for her. After gaining her father’s promise to care for her children, Norma and Pollione walk together, hand in hand, to the funeral pyre.

Our cast today is a from a 1961 recording and features, along with Callas, Franco Corelli as Pollione, Christa Ludwig as Adalgisa and Nicola Zaccaria as Oreveso, Norma's father and chief of the druids. Tulio Serafin conducts the La Scala Opera chorus and orchestra.


Mike Harrah is host of The Lyric Stage, which airs Sundays at 8 pm.