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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
The finale of Norma is ambiguous on the topic, if she actually still loves Pollione at the moment of her death and whether she gets some satisfaction from the fact, that they will be united in death. (I'll use the word "Liebestod" here, although Wagnerians might argue, it is not the proper meaning of the word).

Apparently, the librettist Felice Romani wrote the libretto as ending with the Liebestod. The musical score, however, gives a different impression. "Qual cor tradisti" may be interpreted as loving and gentle for a while. However, after Pollione appologises, it sounds as if Norma finally has had enough of him. She coldly brushes off his appologies, and her last words are adressed to her father, because the kids will be in his care.

It seems, that for some time, they played the opera with Norma sending Pollione to go get stuffed, kept distributing the libretto with the Liebestod, and nobody thought it was weird ?!!

Is there any more background known on this ? Any letter-discussions between Bellini and Romani ? Or how did Giudita Pasta play it ?

How do you like it played ?
 

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I suppose it is open to interpretation. I've always believed that in that final duet, she realises and accepts her own culpability as the High Priestess of the Druids and moves on from Pollione, all jelaousy spent and with it all her love for him. That is why her final words are to her father and her final thoughts for her children. I doubt she gives Pollione a second thought as she mounts the pyre.

The turning point for her is that moment when she sings Son io, thus accepting her guilt. You can hear it in any one of Callas's recordings, but particularly in the 1955 La Scala performance and in the 1960 studio recording. In those two words she manages to convey a wealth of conflicting emotions, all passion spent as she finally accepts the consequences of her actions.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
The first version of Norma I ever saw was on youtube, the one with Joan Sutherland from Sydney. They made it very much like Liebestod there. The Norma's cold remarks are even omitted from the subtitles. In fact, I was very surprised after I learned what is in the score ! The first impression left a strong influence. I prefer very loving and forgiving Normas ever since.
 

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I suppose it is open to interpretation. I've always believed that in that final duet, she realises and accepts her own culpability as the High Priestess of the Druids and moves on from Pollione, all jelaousy spent and with it all her love for him. That is why her final words are to her father and her final thoughts for her children. I doubt she gives Pollione a second thought as she mounts the pyre.
No Norma expert I - when did I last read the libretto? - but this seems right to me. I'd like to think that the high priestess is noble, mature and penitent enough to put her indiscretion and its philandering object behind her. This opera is not a celebration of romantic love. Tristan, of course, is, and Isolde's vision of joining Tristan among the stars, culminating in her happy expiration on his body, is a galaxy away from Norma and Pollione.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
On the other hand, if Norma still loves Pollione, her love finally got rid of the baggage of lies and betraying her people. And she can be sure, Pollione will not ruin their relationship again. There's no time, LOL !

The librettist originally made them both say the last words, that in the flames begins new love, more sancted and eternal.
 

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Norma is not very interested in what Pollione is doing, or not doing, by the end of the opera. In "Qual cor tradisti, qual cor perdesti" she is practically damning him: "Sul rogo istesso che mi divora, sotterra ancora sarò con te". When Pollione asks her: "Ma tu morendo, non m'abborrire, pria di morire, perdona a me!" she is not even answering.

The, she is singing the exquisite and wonderful "Deh! Non volerli vittime" to his father. She wants her forgiveness and atonement for her actions. At the same time, she cares for her children. Once his father agrees to take care of them, she can die a happy death. Pollione... he was just there, he was going to die anyway, and just went along. But he is not important anymore.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
In "Qual cor tradisti, qual cor perdesti" she is practically damning him: "Sul rogo istesso che mi divora, sotterra ancora sarò con te".
So do you understand it as damning ? Like, "I will haunt you forever, will remind you of your guilt even when we are are both dead ?". Interesting. I hear it rather like "We belong together, even if you fail to understand it".

If we go by Soumet, it is both of these things. "We've been together for seven years. Didn't I rightfully earn the place in hell next to you ?" But Soumet's Norma is a terrible person :)

And the third interpretation of "Sul rogo istesso che mi divora, sotterra ancora sarò con te" is just commenting on the irony of the situation.
 

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So do you understand it as damning ? Like, "I will haunt you forever, will remind you of your guilt even when we are are both dead ?". Interesting. I hear it rather like "We belong together, even if you fail to understand it".

If we go by Soumet, it is both of these things. "We've been together for seven years. Didn't I rightfully earn the place in hell next to you ?" But Soumet's Norma is a terrible person :)

And the third interpretation of "Sul rogo istesso che mi divora, sotterra ancora sarò con te" is just commenting on the irony of the situation.
In the Norma of Soumet, she performs a Medea act to her children. In the opera, she nobly sacrifices herself and realizes she had made her children victims. Perhaps Pollione aware that she is concerned for her children and wishes to save them realizes the immensity of his transgression.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
In the Norma of Soumet, she performs a Medea act to her children. In the opera, she nobly sacrifices herself and realizes she had made her children victims. Perhaps Pollione aware that she is concerned for her children and wishes to save them realizes the immensity of his transgression.
Did you read the play ?
People around me normally don't do such things and tell me to "just listen to the music".

The plot is similar to the opera for a long time. She contemplates killing her children, but changes her mind and asks Adalgisa to take the kids to Pollione and marry him, which she refuses. It goes on, there are equivalents of "In mia man alfin to sei" and "Son io". Pollione tries to save her, by saying it is not true. At this point, she makes me angry by telling the crowd a lot of details, including "and I have been hiding the fruits of our love in the temple". But people do not seem to understand this euphemism for the children, or just don't pay attention. Pollione doesn't appologize - do you think this is the reason ? I don't. Neither of them seems to focus on the childrens' fate. It does not look like she wants something downright bad happen to the kids at this point, she is just beeing an idiot. She certainly does not ask her father to protect them, because this Daddy is quite horrible and unforgiving. She and Pollione are led to the stake together, but, almost as in Hollywood, Roman troops arrive. They are both set free, and Pollione - this is bad - leaves her there and goes home to his Roman camp ! At this point, she loses her senses. We don't see it happening, it is just a second-hand report. After Pollione gets some rest at his military base, the impact of what just happened hits him. He wants to correct everything, wants to marry her immediately, and still loves her after all. He goes on a rescue mission, begs her to go with him, but she is very confused, alternately does and doesn't understand the situation. We find out she has killed her younger son already. After some talk, she jumps into the abyss, with her other son in her arms. At this moment, Norma's Dad arrives. His plan was to repeat her execution by fire (!), but it is passe already. It is unclear, if he is now going to capture and kill Pollione, or if he wants him to stay alive and haunted by the memory of Norma and the children. The thriller of the 19-th century...
 

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Did you read the play ?
People around me normally don't do such things and tell me to "just listen to the music".

The plot is similar to the opera for a long time. She contemplates killing her children, but changes her mind and asks Adalgisa to take the kids to Pollione and marry him, which she refuses. It goes on, there are equivalents of "In mia man alfin to sei" and "Son io". Pollione tries to save her, by saying it is not true. At this point, she makes me angry by telling the crowd a lot of details, including "and I have been hiding the fruits of our love in the temple". But people do not seem to understand this euphemism for the children, or just don't pay attention. Pollione doesn't appologize - do you think this is the reason ? I don't. Neither of them seems to focus on the childrens' fate. It does not look like she wants something downright bad happen to the kids at this point, she is just beeing an idiot. She certainly does not ask her father to protect them, because this Daddy is quite horrible and unforgiving. She and Pollione are led to the stake together, but, almost as in Hollywood, Roman troops arrive. They are both set free, and Pollione - this is bad - leaves her there and goes home to his Roman camp ! At this point, she loses her senses. We don't see it happening, it is just a second-hand report. After Pollione gets some rest at his military base, the impact of what just happened hits him. He wants to correct everything, wants to marry her immediately, and still loves her after all. He goes on a rescue mission, begs her to go with him, but she is very confused, alternately does and doesn't understand the situation. We find out she has killed her younger son already. After some talk, she jumps into the abyss, with her other son in her arms. At this moment, Norma's Dad arrives. His plan was to repeat her execution by fire (!), but it is passe already. It is unclear, if he is now going to capture and kill Pollione, or if he wants him to stay alive and haunted by the memory of Norma and the children. The thriller of the 19-th century...
Sounds like a 1950s or 1960s historical epic movie costume drama. I read parts of the play a while ago.
 

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Did you read the play ?
People around me normally don't do such things and tell me to "just listen to the music".

The plot is similar to the opera for a long time. She contemplates killing her children, but changes her mind and asks Adalgisa to take the kids to Pollione and marry him, which she refuses. It goes on, there are equivalents of "In mia man alfin to sei" and "Son io". Pollione tries to save her, by saying it is not true. At this point, she makes me angry by telling the crowd a lot of details, including "and I have been hiding the fruits of our love in the temple". But people do not seem to understand this euphemism for the children, or just don't pay attention. Pollione doesn't appologize - do you think this is the reason ? I don't. Neither of them seems to focus on the childrens' fate. It does not look like she wants something downright bad happen to the kids at this point, she is just beeing an idiot. She certainly does not ask her father to protect them, because this Daddy is quite horrible and unforgiving. She and Pollione are led to the stake together, but, almost as in Hollywood, Roman troops arrive. They are both set free, and Pollione - this is bad - leaves her there and goes home to his Roman camp ! At this point, she loses her senses. We don't see it happening, it is just a second-hand report. After Pollione gets some rest at his military base, the impact of what just happened hits him. He wants to correct everything, wants to marry her immediately, and still loves her after all. He goes on a rescue mission, begs her to go with him, but she is very confused, alternately does and doesn't understand the situation. We find out she has killed her younger son already. After some talk, she jumps into the abyss, with her other son in her arms. At this moment, Norma's Dad arrives. His plan was to repeat her execution by fire (!), but it is passe already. It is unclear, if he is now going to capture and kill Pollione, or if he wants him to stay alive and haunted by the memory of Norma and the children. The thriller of the 19-th century...
I remember being quite interested in literary sources once and would occasionally seek them out. It can be interesting, as long as one remembers that ultimately ideas of performance and interpretation have to come from the music and the libretto. I remember Callas saying that, when she knew she was going to play Anne Boleyn in Donizetti's opera, she sought out historical texts on Anne, but quickly realised that she had to set them aside. In the end, she stated, your idea of a character and how to play her, can only come from the music and how the composer and librettist have characterised her.
 

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I remember being quite interested in literary sources once and would occasionally seek them out. It can be interesting, as long as one remembers that ultimately ideas of performance and interpretation have to come from the music and the libretto. I remember Callas saying that, when she knew she was going to play Anne Boleyn in Donizetti's opera, she sought out historical texts on Anne, but quickly realised that she had to set them aside. In the end, she stated, your idea of a character and how to play her, can only come from the music and how the composer and librettist have characterised her.
Exactly. We don't need to read Shakespeare to interpret Verdi's Macbeth, Otello or Falstaff, or Dumas to understand La Traviata. We don't need to study the Eddas and the Nibelungenlied to interpret the Ring. Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival is not a reliable guide to the meaning or performance of Parsifal, and in fact Wagner himself criticized Wolfram for getting the story wrong! Operas are self-sufficient works of art. I contend - as did Wagner and Callas - that the music is the primary key to understanding them.

In the case of Norma and the question of this thread, I hear nothing in the music that suggests that Norma is concerned with Pollione at the end of the opera. It's interesting, in fact - now that I'm thinking about it - that there is nothing anywhere in the score that suggests a romantic relationship between Pollione and either Norma or Adalgisa. Given that the affection between the two women is given such lovely musical expression, we should surely expect otherwise. But the opera isn't about sexual love. It's about moral conflict and consequences, and that's what we hear in the opera's final scene.
 

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Exactly. We don't need to read Shakespeare to interpret Verdi's Macbeth, Otello or Falsaff, or Dumas to understand La Traviata. We don't need to study the Eddas and the Nibelungenlied to interpret the Ring. Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival is not a reliable guide to the meaning or performance of Parsifal, and in fact Wagner himself criticized Wolfram for getting the story wrong! Operas are self-sufficient works of art. I contend - as did Wagner and Callas - that the music is the primary key to understanding them.

In the case of Norma and the question of this thread, I hear nothing in the music that suggests that Norma is concerned with Pollione at the end of the opera. It's interesting, in fact - now that I'm thinking about it - that there is nothing anywhere in the score that suggests a romantic relationship between Pollione and either Norma or Adalgisa. Given that the affection between the two women is given such lovely musical expression, we should surely expect otherwise. But the opera isn't about sexual love. It's about moral conflict and consequences, and that's what we hear in the opera's final scene.
Though there is a romantic part when Adalgisa tells Norma how Pollione wanted to prostate himself at her feet and kiss her hair. But note she describes this to Norma who may have heard the same words from Pollione.
 

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Exactly. We don't need to read Shakespeare to interpret Verdi's Macbeth, Otello or Falstaff, or Dumas to understand La Traviata. We don't need to study the Eddas and the Nibelungenlied to interpret the Ring. Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival is not a reliable guide to the meaning or performance of Parsifal, and in fact Wagner himself criticized Wolfram for getting the story wrong! Operas are self-sufficient works of art. I contend - as did Wagner and Callas - that the music is the primary key to understanding them.

In the case of Norma and the question of this thread, I hear nothing in the music that suggests that Norma is concerned with Pollione at the end of the opera. It's interesting, in fact - now that I'm thinking about it - that there is nothing anywhere in the score that suggests a romantic relationship between Pollione and either Norma or Adalgisa. Given that the affection between the two women is given such lovely musical expression, we should surely expect otherwise. But the opera isn't about sexual love. It's about moral conflict and consequences, and that's what we hear in the opera's final scene.
When Corelli played it the women and gays thought about romance LOL
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 · (Edited)
But the opera isn't about sexual love. It's about moral conflict and consequences, and that's what we hear in the opera's final scene.
Time to quote a musicologist ! :)
"But essentially, as Lippmann's oft-made analogy between Bellini and Wagner insists, this is a movement to ravish the hearers by
sheer sonorous intoxication. Its swaying rhythms, rising chromatic modulations and ecstatic climactic unison of soprano and tenor voices are erotic in an almost graphic way. In fact it is a supreme demonstration of a fact of Italian opera that is not easily accounted for in rational terms that not infrequently, in its musical numbers, we are dealing not so much with music drama as with a ritual of communal ecstasy." (Vincenzo Bellini: Norma, David R. B. Kimbell, Cambridge University Press 1998)
Sorry, I had to 🙃
 

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Time to quote a musicologist ! :)
"But essentially, as Lippmann's oft-made analogy between Bellini and Wagner insists, this is a movement to ravish the hearers by
sheer sonorous intoxication. Its swaying rhythms, rising chromatic modulations and ecstatic climactic unison of soprano and tenor voices are erotic in an almost graphic way. In fact it is a supreme demonstration of a fact of Italian opera that is not easily accounted for in rational terms that not infrequently, in its musical numbers, we are dealing not so much with music drama as with a ritual of communal ecstasy." (Vincenzo Bellini: Norma, David R. B. Kimbell, Cambridge University Press 1998)
Sorry, I had to 🙃
Sounds like Mr. Kimbell needed to fill some pages to earn his doctorate.
 
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