Bellini: Norma

COMPOSERS: Bellini
LABELS: Decca
ALBUM TITLE: Bellini
WORKS: Norma
PERFORMER: Hasmik Papian, Gegam Grigorian, Varduhi Khachatrian. A film by Boris Airapetian
CATALOGUE NO: 074 3147 (NTSC system; dts 5.1; 4:3 picture ratio)
Watch, and boggle. Why did Decca

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buy this when so many classic

performances languish unreleased?

Producer Boris Airapetian decided

to film his popular stage production

among the hills of his native Armenia.

And the result is, well, bizarre.

For a start, stagey cardboard axes,

knobbly-knee costumes and funny

headgear look ludicrous against

real settings. One expects Asterix to

drop in. Nor do these spectacular

rocky slopes with their scrubby

trees remotely evoke deep-forested

Gaul, forcing Norma to prophesy,

wildly inappropriately, in a Roman

temple, jazzed up with improbable

stage idols. And Airapetian gilds all

this with inept cinematic devices,

awkward cuts, irrelevant landscape

pans, clips from old sword-andsandal

epics and Norma’s golden

sickle soaring kitschily to become the

moon. The soundtrack acoustic is

echoey, the lip-sync often a beat out.

On the other hand, we see

worse every day from posturing

producers, less honestly devoted

to the work. And the musical side,

wholly Armenian, is by no means

negligible. Hasmik Papian makes

for a fiery-voiced Norma and the

two-timing Pollione, Gregorian, a

Kirov star, retains his splendid spinto

ring, even if he looks like a thickset

mafia boss. Ovakian is a sonorous

Oroveso. Khachatrian’s Adalgisa is

more ordinary, and the chorus sturdy though ragged, but Lavchian and the

orchestra play with Italianate fervour.

It’s hard to recommend this,

exactly, but it may appeal to those

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who enjoy a good old-fashioned sing. Michael Scott Rohan