Another Norma, Another Triumph

t was the seventh “Norma”-production within ten months (after Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Mannheim, St. Gallen, Montreal and Detroit): on February 16, 2006, the Armenian soprano made her company debut at Opera Colorado in Denver in the title role of Bellini’s “Norma”. The production of James Robinson was conducted by Stephen Lord and was followed by three more performances on February 19, 22 and 25. Another Norma, another triumph, more ovations, more rave reviews – like these three:

Spectacular “Norma”

A towering, all-encompassing performance by Hasmik Papian. Opera Colorado brought the Vienna-based soprano halfway around the world for this production, and it’s not hard to understand why it went to so much trouble. A specialist in this role, considered to be one of the most challenging in all opera, Papian impresses in every way, compellingly conveying Norma’s power, charisma and vulnerability.

Most important, she adroitly handles the role’s nonstop vocal demands – the two-octave leaps, devilishly intricate ornamentations and fast-shifting dynamics – with near-perfect articulation and stunning phrasing, every note in place. Drawing upon a seemingly infinite array of vocal timbres, she can be bold or bewitching. Her singing is always beautiful with no letdown in energy, despite the immense stamina this role requires.

Denver Post, 21. 2. 2006

The Sort of Singing
We Can Only Dream of

Hasmik Papian proved that the advance raves of her Norma were, if anything, restrained. The Armenian soprano soared through the role’s impossible demands while she crafted a characterization that was unexpectedly close to human. Her Casta Diva was poised, captivating and wonderfully focused (with an unforgettable diminuendo). Fully her equal, mezzo Irina Mishura brought a powerful voice and an elegant grace and nobility to Adalgisa. Her duets with Papian left opera lovers panting for breath.

Rocky Mountain News, Denver (Colorado), 18. 2. 2006

Move Over, Maria!

Half a century ago, Maria Callas established herself as the queen of bel canto, the richly ornamented style that turned singing into vocal acrobatics. Her reign ended, however, when Hasmik Papian took on the role of Norma that was Callas’ signature role. The throne now clearly belongs to Papian, who debuted Thursday in Opera Colorado’s first staging of Bellini’s “Norma”. The Armenian super soprano had a capacity audience in the Ellie Caulkins Opera House holding its breath in awe of the power and the ease with which she met Bellini’s challenge.

In a sense, Papian is two singers in one: a dramatic soprano with a rich, full-bodied voice, plus the grit to carry her through Norma’s tormented emotional range. At the same time, she can match the best lyric voices around in tenderness and agility. “Norma” is written in long, melodic lines, and Papian knows how to shape, color and sustain them. Watching her is a master’s class in singing.

Russian-born Irina Mishura as Adalgisa is a perfect match for Papian in the several duets at the heart of this score. This is teamwork at its best, and it brings a dramatic force to this story not immediately apparent in Bellini’s melodic simplicity. The two brush aside the wags who translate “bel canto” as “silly plot”. Moving from one emotional extreme to the next, Papian and Mishura lay bare the human vulnerability that makes this story convincing – and touching. “Norma” is a triumph for Opera Colorado.

Daily Camera, Boulder (Colorado), 18. 2. 2006
(For a facsimile of this review, click the “Rewiews”-button in the menu up right)

A return of the celebrated soprano to Denver is scheduled for April 2008 for “The Flying Dutchman” – it will be her first Senta!

Hasmik Papian has starred once more as Norma at Staatstheater Stuttgart: on April 3, 2006, she jumped in for Catherine Naglestad at short notice. The performance was conducted by Constantinos Carydis. Adalgisa was sung by Eva-Maria Westbroek, Pollione by Emmanuel di Villarosa and Oroveso by Enzo Capuano.