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Geraldine Aylmer-Kelly as Norma and Edward Harper as the Druid elder Oroveso in White Horse Opera's production of Bellini's 'Norma'

White Horse Opera, which treads the boards not (pace the photographs) outdoors in wild megalithic Wiltshire, but indoors at the Devizes Corn Exchange, has staged a number of effective home-grown productions in recent years, including Saint-Saens' Samson and Delilah, Rossini's Count Ory and (last season) Mozart's The Magic Flute. This year they turned to Bellini, staging Norma, generally regarded as one of the composer's finest bel canto masterpieces, and not so long ago a showpiece for Maria Callas.

Geraldine Aylmer-Kelly as Norma and Edward Harper as the Druid elder Oroveso in White Horse Opera's production of Bellini's 'Norma'

The orchestral playing under Eric Wetherell, who shrewdly judged each pacing just right for both the opera and his singers, seemed a first rate team effort. The production's best feature was Andrew Taylor's evocatively painted back flats, effectively lit in alternating greys, reds and blues. Graham Billing's unimaginative direction, however, seemed skimpy verging on non-existent. Yet the three main principals made a marked impact : Paul Arden-Griffith's Roman proconsul, Pollione, was exquisitely sung, if limply acted. Geraldine Aylmer-Kelly made a superb stab at Norma herself, mastering Bellini's massively taxing coloratura with flying colours (albeit less secure at lower pitch) and cutting a fiery figure onstage too. Edward Harper's Oroveso had many of the key ingredients : a dignified strength of presence, beautiful vocal control and an appealing timbre. The chorus sang with spirit and aplomb, though the impressive dominating oak tree rather capped them in the acting stakes.

White Horse Opera's next opera will be Johann Strauss's Die Fledermaus on 17, 19 and 20 October 2001.

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Copyright © 9 December 2000 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK

 

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