I just finished watching this DVD of opera recitals from the Met in the early 1980s. The clip below is the point at which the Troyanos/Domingo part of the recital got going for me, at least. In the track listing for the DVD it is noted as simply “Duet, Act I” from Bellini’s Norma and I think the idea is that you’re supposed to know what that is already and what all the words mean, because there aren’t any subtitles.
For those of us who do not have the score and the libretto of Norma tattooed backwards onto our necks, this is Pollione and Adalgisa’s duet “Va, crudele,” an approximate translation of which is:
Adalgisa: Not you again!
Pollione: I love you, baby! Come to Rome!
Adalgisa: But I’m married to the trees!
Pollione: I made you a tape!
Adalgisa: You have melted my heart with your Rick Astley and his heartfelt but catchy ballad – but no, I cannot! Please go!
Pollione: Don’t be cruel!
Adalgisa: But the trees!
Pollione: Your religion is stupid! My feelings are far more important!
Adalgisa: This is very true! And I admit I have naughty thoughts about you when I am in the temple!
Pollione: Then meet me tomorrow morning! But don’t bring too much stuff because I’ve only got the one horse!
Adalgisa: Remember, this is Imaginary Britain in A.D. 150! I don’t own anything but this dress, a tube of eyeliner and some sticks! See you tomorrow!
My Italian is a little rusty, but I believe that the above covers most of the important parts.
Anyway. There’s a nice rhythm and energy in the orchestral playing right before Domingo comes in with “va, crudele” at about 1.25, and again with little pause right before Adalgisia’s “e tu pure, ah tu non sai” just after 3.00. (I think this is where Adalgisa explains about the thing with the trees.) Levine does some really nice things with the little mood changes in the scene, e.g. at 3.46.
I don’t always love every aspect of Troyanos’s singing – sometimes her vibrato sounds fluttery to me – but I particularly enjoyed the sound during the section beginning at 6.50 (“Ciel! così parlar l’ascolto”). And Levine looks like he’s having a grand old time – watch him mouth along to the words at the end of the piece! It’s probably fun as an opera conductor to be right there on the stage rather than down in the pit. I’m not normally a huge Bellini fan, but there was something about this that just seemed to work. The orchestral playing is exciting and it knits together with what the singers are doing – and well, it’s just kind of fun, that’s all.