Tag Archives: Voice

Drop The Mic: Norma’s A Vocal Fireworks Opera


As I write this, Angela Meade, Jamie Barton, and Russell Thomas are on-stage rehearsing a scene from our upcoming production of Bellini’s Norma. It’s the end of Act I and Norma (Meade) has just discovered the affair between the man she loves, Pollione (Thomas), and Adalgisa (Barton), a younger priestess. If you think the story’s dramatic, you should hear their voices! Unbelievable voices – let’s call them vocal fireworks because of their equally explosive and yet restrained nature – are at the center of Norma. It’s compelling to witness.


Angela Meade as the title character in Norma (2015)

Angela Meade as the title character in Norma (2015); Photo Credit: Ken Howard

You can literally feel their voices vibrate through the space, giving you goosebumps. It’s a heroic vocal energy that only opera singers possess and share with the world. While Norma is known as an opera lover’s opera, for the opera novice it showcases the beauty of the operatic voice. It reminds you that this art form is built on its power, and this cast’s voices are beyond. The combination of Meade’s soprano, Barton’s mezzo-soprano, and Thomas’ tenor voices surround you lovingly throughout this bel canto opera (learn more about bel canto here).

As I was reminded during last week’s Piano Dress Rehearsal, opera singers aren’t amplified. In other words, there are no microphones like you’d find at a rock concert. It’s these powerful voices that are blowing the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion roof off. (Oh, and it’s not an El Niño either…I checked.)

Check out this short clip of Angela Meade discussing how demanding Norma is vocally:


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Angela Meade on Norma


Soprano Angela Meade, who made her LA Opera debut in 2012 as Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, returns as Bellini’s Norma, a role that catapulted her to prominence when she first performed it in concert at the Caramoor International Music Festival in 2010. She has subsequently performed in productions of Norma at the Metropolitan Opera and Washington National Opera. Shortly after rehearsals began in October, we sat down with her to get her take on this famously challenging role.

Angela Meade as the title character in Norma (2015); Photo: Ken Howard

Angela Meade as the title character in Norma (2015); Photo: Ken Howard

Let’s talk about Norma. It’s a big, giant, iconic work.

Indeed. Let’s call it Mount Everest.

 Many opera lovers associate Norma with Maria Callas and a whole host of other great singers.

I’ve listened to all of them and, of course, I find great inspiration in many of them. But I try to make it just Angela’s interpretation, rather than anybody else’s.

Between performances, auditions and competitions, how many times do you think you’ve sung the entrance aria, “Casta diva”?

A bajillion. I really don’t know! I did a total of about 60 competitions, and I probably sang it for all of them, and I’ve also sung it in concerts, private functions and other things, not to mention within the role itself and, of course, rehearsals for performing the role. I’m sure it’s well over 250 times, probably more than that. I should have kept a tally of it.

Many different types of singers have sung Norma.

It has ranged from lyric coloraturas to mezzos. It’s different for everybody, as it should be.


Angela Meade singing “Casta Diva” for the Giordani Foundation Gala in 2009

It seems like you weren’t intimidated by the role.

I guess I never gave it much thought. When I first started singing “Casta diva,” I didn’t realize the sort of implications that went along with singing the role. I think plenty of people around me did, but I thought it was a beautiful aria. Clearly, I was only seeing the tip of the iceberg.

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