BELLINI: Norma — Roma 1955

Music composed by Vincenzo Bellini (1801–1835). Libretto by Felice
Romani, from Norma ou L’infanticide (1831) by Alexandre Soumet.

First Performance: 26 December 1831, Teatro alla Scala, Milan.

Principal Characters:

Pollione, Proconsole di Roma nelle Gallie Tenor
Oroveso, capo dei Druidi Bass
Norma, Druidessa, figlia di Oroveso Soprano
Adalgisa, giovine ministra del tempio d’Irminsul Soprano
Clotilde, confidente di Norma Mezzo-Soprano
Flavio, amico di Pollione Tenor
Due fanciulli, figli di Norma e di Pollione Silent roles

Time and Place: Ancient Gaul during the Roman


Act I

In a forest in Gaul, at the time of the Roman conquest, the head of the
Druids, Oroveso, announces to his people that the priestess Norma, his
daughter, is about to reveal the will of the god Irminsul: all are hoping
that the time has come to rebel against their oppressors. Meanwhile the Roman
proconsul Pollione confides to his friend Flavio that he no longer loves
Norma, in spite of the two children she has borne him and who live hidden in
Norma’s house, their existence a secret, but loves Adalgisa, a young
priestess in the temple of Irminsul. Pollione fears Norma’s anger, and
recounts a dream in which she slaughters their children. Rut the sound of the
sacred gong is heard announcing Norma’s arrival, and the two Romans disappear
into the forest. Now all the Druids are gathered, eager to be given the
signal to revolt; but Norma reveals that the time for war has not yet come,
and by the light of the moon she performs the sacred rite of cutting the
mistletoe, invoking peace — a peace that is necessary for her to
consolidate her secret liaison with Pollione. When Adalgisa is left alone she
anguishes over her illicit love; Pollione arrives and eventually persuades
her to follow him to Rome.

In her dwelling Norma looks anxiously at her children: she knows that
Pollione must leave, but she has received no message from him, and is afraid
that he no longer loves her as he once did. Adalgisa arrives, and cannot
conceal that she has betrayed her vocation as a priestess and yielded to
love. Norma understands her and reassures her, and releasing her from her
vows she encourages her to follow the man she loves. But what is his name?
Adalgisa indicates Pollione, who is approaching at that moment. At this
tragic revelation Norma threatens revenge, and Pollione vainly tries to
defend himself. Adalgisa, who knew nothing of Pollione’s former love for
Norma, is deeply distressed, and reassures Norma with generous words that she
will break off all relations with the faithless Roman.

Act II

In her despair, Norma wishes she could kill her children: she is afraid,
they will be turned into slaves in Rome, and also wishes to make Pollione
suffer terribly. But she cannot bring herself to carry out the mad deed. She
calls Adalgisa, and asks her to agree to marry Pollione and to keep the
children with her; but Adalgisa no longer loves the Roman, and undertakes
instead to rekindle his love for Norma. In the forest the warriors are ready
to attack the Romans and kill the proconsul, but Oroveso has to stop them:
Norma continues to remain silent about the decisions of Irminsul.

In the temple of Irminsul Norma learns from her friend Clotilde that
Adalgisa’s attempt has failed, and that Pollione is planning to abduct the
girl. Norma has an overwhelming desire for revenge, and calls all her people
together: it is the signal for war. Pollione is immediately taken prisoner,
guilty of having broken into the cloister of young priestesses. It, is Norma
who will have to sacrifice him, but first she must interrogate him and asks
to be left alone with the guilty man. Norma promises to save Pollione’s life
if he will give up Adalgisa, but Pollione refuses and invites Norma to kill
him, urging her to have, mercy on Adalgisa. Norma summons back her people and
announces that there is another culprit, a priestess who has broken her vows:
after a moment’s hesitation she does not say Adalgisa’s name, but her own.
Only now does Pollione understand the nobility of the woman he has betrayed,
and feels that he loves her again. Norma entrusts her children to her father
Oroveso, who tearfully forgives her, and she serenely mounts the pyre with

Click here for the
complete libretto.

Click here for
an English translation of the libretto.

here for the vocal score.

image_description=Norma by Rafal Olbinski
first_audio_name=Vincenzo Bellini: Norma
product_title=Vincenzo Bellini: Norma
product_by=Adalgisa: Ebe Stignani; Clotilde: Rina Cavallari; Flavio: Athos Cesarini; Norma: Maria Callas; Oroveso: Giuseppe Modesti; Pollione: Mario del Monaco. Orchestra e Coro di Roma della RAI. Tullio Serafin, conducting. Live performance, 29 June 1955, Rome.