Marina Rebeka is a first-class Norma, and her "Casta diva" ranks among the very finest I have experienced. From there, she went on to a very exciting traversal of all of Norma's demanding music ... there is great beauty, power, and expressiveness in her singing.
“In her opening recitative, Ms. Rebeka displayed Italianate fervor, dipping into chest voice at “…qual consunta morrà!” to fine effect. She began the “Casta diva” very softly, like a true prayer, full of lovely dynamic shadings. As the melody takes flight, Rebeka rose to the repeated high-As compellingly, giving them a dramatic purpose. Throughout this test-piece aria, the soprano showed herself capable of long phrases with an unbroken breath line; this kept the listener riveted. In the second verse, when the high-A passage again occurs at “…quella pace…”, Ms. Rebeka beautifully and steadily sustained the note, eschewing the accented repeats of the oppure. Her cadenza was magical, and she finished the aria on a sustained pianissimothat hung gorgeously on the air. The applause was long and loud, and truly merited.
Following a stunningly sustained F at “Cadrà! Punirlo io posso!”, Ms. Rebeka launched the cabaletta, handling the coloratura deftly and commencing the second verse very softly and reflectively … A long, vibrant top-C crowned her first scene.
In the first duet with Adalgisa, Ms. Rebeka’s singing was polished and well-coloured emotionally, achieving a finely-balanced blend with her Adalgisa, Joyce DiDonato. An opened cut seemed unnecessary, holding up the forward momentum of the duet, but it did afford us an impressive diminuendo on a high-C from the soprano. In the trio where she rounds on the faithless Pollione, Ms. Rebeka’s softly insinuating singing of “…fonte d’eternelacrime…” was another perfect touch: she warns Adalgisa that loving Pollione will result in a “…fountain of endless tears…” Open cuts in the trio’s strettadid nothing to enhance the feeling of dramatic tension here: it needs to be resolved in a fast and furious way. Ms. Rebeka’s bright high-D inspired a wave of further bravas.
Norma’s monolog contemplating the murder of her children showed off Ms. Rebeka’s dramatic instincts with a nuanced rendering of the recitative and poignant anguish in “Teneri figli“. In the great duet “Mira, O Norma” the mingled of timbres Rebeka and DiDonato were most appealing, and some well-judged rubato at the repeat of “Si, fino all’ore…” gave the music a nice emotional tug.
Ms. Rebeka sealed her success with her very impressive singing throughout the second scene of Act II. Having sung generously all evening, the soprano had reserves of both voice and temperament to call upon, and she had one exciting passage after another, starting with the pensive “Ei tornerà…” wherein she hopes to reclaim Pollione’s love; in the cadenza, at “…del primo amore…”, the soprano sustained a flaming top-C.
Finding her dream of a happy reunion with Pollione shattered, Ms. Rebeka called for battle with an enormous high-C at “…sangue Romano!” Her warriors emit a fierce, furious cry and commence on the “Guerra!” chorus, which ends with a tranquil coda and a floated note from the soprano.
Ms. Rebeka pulled out all the stops for “In mia man, alfin tu sei…” including some dramatically resonant chest notes and a fiery, explosive “Solo? Tutti!!” She was so possessed by her fury that I thought for a moment she might tackle a penultimate E-flat (something I’d heard Sills and Deutekom do), but Ms. Rebeka stuck to the score. “Quel cor tradisti…” was another exciting passage from the soprano, who thrilled with a vibrant high-B over Pollione’s “…piu disperato…”
Norma reveals her motherhood to the furious but distraught Oroveso, and begs for the lives of her children in the heart-rending “Deh non volerli vittime…” before the impatient Druids begin yelling “Vanne al rogo!“; the soprano and her hapless lover approach the pyre with one last high-B.
Marina Rebeka was passionately applauded as she took her bows at the end of this very exciting performance.”
“She was divine … a powerful, bright voice … her Norma slowly built to a full-throttle portrayal that won over the audience. Certainly, her “Casta diva” cast a spell, among other memorable moments.”
Image: Ken Howard / Met Opera
“Rebeka’s voice is a cool, sizable and even, perfectly-placed bel canto instrument… Rebeka’s voice swells to fill the Met without straining to do so, and intense feeling does not occlude the flow of lovely tone. “Casta Diva” was graceful, the cabaletta intense, the initial declamation commanding, the diction excellent—every word of the text was clear.”
“The two nights in which Latvian soprano Marina Rebeka sang the title role of Norma were a total triumph, not only for this young soprano, but also for the entire cast who were totally on fire in both performances.
Since the first notes of Rebeka’s ethereal Casta Diva(especially on October 16th), the auditorium fell under the spell of her Norma. Her Sediziose voci showed a commanding vocal presence (both as a character and as a singer). Her phrasing was exquisite and her approach to the aria fell like true prayer and not a show off aria. She was truly instrospective about the way she sang it; her high notes were full, rich and big, filling the auditorium of the MET with a glorious sound. The voice has grown since the last time we heard her live and proved to be ideal for this music. Rebeka sang with both longing and passion Ah! bello a me ritorna, making the coloratura with clarity. Her duets with Joyce DiDonato’s Adalgisa were sublime, both in perfect synchronization of harmonies, breathing and intensity. Their voices blended beautifully and they portrayed prfectly the strong friendship between Norma and Adalgisa. You could really feel the bond between these two women. Both duets were received with thunderous applause by the audience.
Rebeka grew even more in the role in the second act and gave a very touching performance in the final scene when Norma pleads forgiveness to her father. She also showed the character’s strength in her duet with Calleja’s Pollione In mia man al fin tu sei. She portrayed all the facets in Norma: the mother, the friend, the priestess and the lover and won the audience over with her performance. It was indeed a triumph for the Latvian soprano and we hope she continues singing this role and many more of the belcanto heroines around the world.”
“Marina Rebeka’s arrival received a prolonged and frenetic ovation from the audience. She brought great acting and a wonderful dramatic soprano technique to her portrayal of Norma as priestess, Pollione’s lover, rival of Adalgisa, and adoring mother of two small children. This provided a complex drama of religious ritual, romantic lover, mother, bitter jealousy and the controversy of revenge.
In the first act, her arrival on stage is preceded by a group of younger priestesses, and as religious leader, she takes her place at the altar and performs the Druid rites with majesty, elegance, and religious piety. In the aria “Casta Diva,” her legato, diction and belcanto technique were outstanding and its conclusion brought thunderous and prolonged applause.
When Adalgisa seeks understanding and guidance from her friend and leader Norma, the beautiful duet “M’abbraccia, e parla” was interpreted masterfully and with great empathy by the two women.
With Norma’s discovery that Adalgisa’s lover is Pollione, Rebeka is transformed by fury and rage, emphasizing this emotion in “Oh, non tremare, o perfido,” the emotion carrying strongly throughout this act and the final trio.
Norma’s darkest moments arrive in the second act, when she cleanses her dagger in preparation for suicide, then carries the dagger to the bed of her sleeping children, fearful of leaving them motherless at the mercy of fate and Roman society. Rebeka caused fear in “Dormono entrambi,” but once again she transformed her frenzy into the feelings of a tender mother in the magnificent duet “Pallor di morte.” Both Rebeka and DiDonato transported the house with “Sì, fino all’ore estreme.”
Rebeka’s performance was spectacular throughout Act two. As jealous woman seeking revenge, the final duet with Pollione showed an implacable and inflexible woman, who put down her adversary.”