A touching connection between Thatcher’s era and Bellini’s Norma

What to do while heavy clouds and rain cover Brussels? We watched the Iron Lady with Meryl Streep, to try to forget about the awful weather outside.

One of the last movie moments features the Casta Diva aria. The aria is performed by Maria Callas and runs while Margaret Thatcher (Meryl Streep) leaves 10 Downing Street, the official residence of the British prime minister.

The movie soundtrack suggests the ending of the first British female prime minister’s era. This movie moment is a touching connection between Margaret Thatcher’s fate and Bellini’s masterpiece.

Listening to this aria was the reason to re-watch a Norma production, which was recorded on a DVD. Norma, a bel canto reference, was on my “to do” list for the past years. Casta Diva, which sounds like a peace prayer, is an extremely demanding performance. According to both experts and performers the aria as such is a tough exam for any soprano voices.

The recorded show is a poor performance. How disappointing! I am not in the position to make any judgements or any official reviews, as I am not an expert, but an ordinary opera lover.

What I feel while listening says everything, so I am entitled, however, to like or dislike an opera performance. I am not going to name and shame any performers. Perhaps our expectations were too high, most probably based on previous famous performances by Maria Callas, Angela Gheorghiu or Joan Sutherland.

Norma’s story is sad. The performance we watched was technically within low limits, with cold, static and sterile accents.

What we missed was the soft technique and the sound power to emotionally move us. What is the mission of a genuine artist? Apparently conveying emotions and touching listeners’ hearts is not an easy artistic endeavour.

We could not feel any dramatic intensity, any voice tenderness, and any soft coloratura to get an enhanced, deeper and authentic emotion.

There were no signs of moving us throughout the opera’s tonal spectrum, from bright to dark. The legato moments were unnatural and the efforts of climbing to get the right pitches were visible and embarrassing.

The sounds of Callas, Gheorghiu and Sutherland are organic, with a perfect control of the volume, which makes the listeners feel the story and get the emotion straight to their hearts.

I could not imagine watching the Iron Lady featuring Casta Diva from this recorded performance…

Casta Diva (Norma), by Angela Gheorghiu

Casta Diva (Norma), by Maria Callas

Top image: Picture by Sergeant Tom Robinson RLC, Open Government License

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One Response to A touching connection between Thatcher’s era and Bellini’s Norma

  1. Very nice! 🙂 Looking forward to watching this movie now!

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