YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–The Bellini opera "Norma," staged by Boris Hayrapetov of the National Opera and Ballet Theatre of Armenia–was performed at the Moscow Bolshoi Theatre on January 5 and 7. The Artistic Director of the National Opera and Ballet Theatre of Armenia Gegham Grigorian–said at a January 14 press conference that the distinguished Moscow audience received the Armenian performance of "Norma" with great applause. In turn–the Russian press gave positive reviews of the performance.
Grigorian emphasized that the Armenian group is the first foreign group invited by Russia to perform at the Bolshoi Theatre after its renovation.
Grigorian also announced that the Armenian group has been working under incredibly difficult conditions–with no heating available–no convenient practice hall–and no general rehearsals taking place. He–nevertheless–noted that the tour was very successful. Nearly all of the soloists been invited back to participate in future Bolshoi performances. The Director of the National Opera and Ballet Theatre of Armenia Gamo Hovhannissian–said that the group plans to take part in the "Golden Mask" festival in St. Petersburg in April.
In their sacred grove Oroveso–the High Priest of the Druids–leads his people in a prayer to their gods for help in defeating the Romans who are occupying Gaul. The leader of the occupying forces is the Proconsul Pollione–who has been the secret lover of Norma–the High Priestess and also Oroveso’s daughter. She has broken her vow of chastity and borne him two children. However–Norma means nothing to him now–because he has become infatuated with the temple virgin Adalgisa. He confesses this to his confidant–but their conversation is interrupted by the sound of the gong which introduces the druidic rites. Norma performs the rite of cutting the sacred mistletoe with her golden sickle–then tells the Gauls that the time is not propitious for an attack on the Romans–whose days of dominance are numbered anyway. She hopes to save Pollione’s life through this message and then prays to the chaste goddess of the moon to end all warfare. After the rite is over–Adalgisa comes to the grove to pray–but finds herself face to face with Pollione–whose seductive speeches soon win her over. She goes to see Norma–who knows that Pollione is to be recalled to Rome and plans to take his new love with him. Norma does not know who this new love is–any more than Adalgisa knows of the previous liaison between Norma and Pollione–but when Pollione arrives–both women betray the truth about themselves and the act ends with all three characters unleashing their emotions in a dramatic trio.
Norma is so distraught that she contemplates killing her own children rather than let them be taken to Rome as slaves–with Adalgisa as a stepmother. She is however overcome with remorse and when Adalgisa enters she urges her to become Pollione’s bride. Adalgisa refuses to come between Norma and Pollione–and in a spectacular duet the two women vow that nothing shall destroy their newly-cemented friendship. Adalgisa goes off to remind Pollione of his duty towards Norma–but it is reported to Norma that Pollione is determined to keep Adalgisa and take her to Rome by force. Demented with rage and jealousy–Norma summons the Gauls and tells them that the gods will now support an attack on the Romans. The Gauls sing a tremendous battle chorus–but Norma’s confidante then reports that Pollione has been captured while breaking into the priestesses’ sanctuary. Norma has to pass judgement on him–but is not able to kill him. She asks to be left alone with him and then offers to save his life if he will give up Adalgisa. He refuses and Norma recalls the Gauls–only to reveal to them that a priestess has dishonored her sacred vows and deserves to be burned at the stake. Pollione assumes that she means Adalgisa–but Norma admits that she means herself and begs Oroveso to forgive her and take care of her children. The horrified Gauls lead her away to execution–and Pollione–inspired by her heroism–resolves to die beside the woman he has loved and betrayed.