THE BIRMINGHAM STUDIO ORCHESTRA
Conducted by JOSEPH LEWIS
PRODUCED in 1829, when Rossini, at the age -L of thirty-seven, was at the very height of his fame, Tell was meant to be the first of a series of five Operas. Rossini had a contract from the Government of France which pledged him to write an Opera every two years, five in all. The next one was to have been Faust— one of the most interesting ' might-have-beens ' in the history of music. The Revolution of 1830, however, destroyed all these hopes, and though Rossini returned to Paris and went to law on his own behalf, winning his case after years of litigation at the very end of 1835, he wrote no more Operas for Paris or any other stage. The work was very shabbily treated by the Directors of the Opera under the new regime. First they cut it down from five Acts to three and then took to giving only one Act at a time, either as curtain raisers or as mere introductions or interludes for Ballets.
The Opera is in many ways unlike the light-hearted Barber of Seville and others of that gay and sparkling order which won him his worldwide fame. The subject is, of course, much more serious, and Rossini tackled it with a full idea of its importance. Patriotism and the liberty of peoples was very much in the air in those days, and the story, recast from Schiller's play, aroused world-wido interest. But besides that, Rossini had been closely concerned for some time before its composition with the study and production of the Beethoven Symphonies in Paris, and their dignity and bigness had no doubt something to do with his adoption of a more serious manner in this work.
Relayed from the Royal Opera House
NORMA is only rarely heard now, although in the first half of last century it was one of the favourites among Italian Operas. The principal part demands florid singing of a style which is but little cultivated now, and it is usually only on behalf of a distinguished Prima Donna that the work is revived.
The story deals with the old Druids, of whom
Norma is a High Priestess. The religion required strict chastity of her, but she had accepted one of the Roman soldiers as a lover, and has two children. Pollione, the Roman, has wavered in his affection for her, and is strongly attracted by a younger Priestess, Adalgisa, who finds it difficult to withstand his advances. She comes to Norma, asking to be released from her vows. Norma discovers who the would-be lover is, and tells the young Priestess of her own past sin; the first Act ends with Adalgisa's vowing to have nothing more to do with one who had betrayed her High Priestess.
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