Synopsis by Nathan Southern
In addition to its status as the most frequently revived opera in modern history and the foremost exemplar of the bel canto operatic tradition, Vincenzo Bellini's Norma sustains a reputation as one of the most demanding operas to perform. Its soprano range is such, in fact, that only a handful of Twentieth century divas (Callas among them) mastered the work. The relatively straightforward, two-act story tells of the titular druid priestess's impassioned love for the Roman proconsul Pollione, by whom she has conceived two children. Pollione threatens to abscond with an alternate lover, Adalgisa, but Norma has him captured by the druids and joins him in a funeral pyre sacrifice as a penance for her guilt. The Australian Opera mounted Bellini's masterpiece at the Sydney Opera House in August 1978; a film of that production now appears in this home release. The famed Joan Sutherland performs as the lead, alongside Margreta Elkins, Ronald Stevens, Clifford Grant, Etela Piha and Trevor Brown. Sandro Sequi directs, while The Elizabethan Sydney Orchestra and The Australian Opera Chorus, under the baton of Peter Seymour, provide musical accompaniment.