“Norma”

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You can see “Casablanca” over and over. Some art is de­signed to be frozen in time. But the best live per­for­mance art — not once-re­moved au­dio or video ver­sions — is a tran­sient, one-time ex­pe­ri­ence.

So when Florida Grand Opera agreed to pro­duce “Norma,” it pro­vided an op­por­tu­nity for lo­cal au­di­ences to ex­pe­ri­ence what they had only heard other peo­ple talk about or had lis­tened to on record­ings. Be­cause of its Her­culean de­mands on the few di­vas will­ing to per­form it, Bellini’s mas­ter­piece is in­fre­quently mounted.

For­tu­nately, FGO’s ver­sion is a su­perbly ex­e­cuted tri­umph that melds tech­ni­cal mas­tery and gut-wrench­ing emo­tion. So­prano Mlada Khu­do­ley nails the ti­tle role of the middle-aged Druid priest­ess, and mezzo Dana Beth Miller matches her head-to­head as the younger col­league who has stolen the af­fec­tions of Norma’s hunky lover.

To hear Khu­do­ley’s flaw­less voice scam­per up and down the bel canto score is cer­tainly breath­tak­ing, but to hear her duet with Miller is like watch­ing two birds in flight, one chang­ing course only to be mir­rored in­stantly by her com­pan­ion.

For novice opera pa­trons, the pro­duc­tion di­rected by Nic Muni and con­ducted by An­thony Bar­rese ex­em­pli­fies why you should go in the first place. De­spite the rag­ing pas­sions and a plot that is pure soap opera, the per­form­ers in­vest them­selves so deeply into their roles that this edi­tion never seems to go over the top into melo­drama. This is a ma­jor feat given that, in­ten­tion­ally bor­row­ing from Euripi­des’ Medea, Norma se­ri­ously con­sid­ers slaugh­ter­ing her out of wed­lock chil­dren to pun­ish her faith­less lover.

“Norma” is re­ally just a hy­per­ven­ti­lated love tri­an­gle that turns in on it­self sev­eral times, with ev­ery­body will­ing to give up some­body and to sac­ri­fice their love or their lives.

To ab­bre­vi­ate it, Norma is the high priest­ess of a Druid cult in Gaul dur­ing the preChris­tian oc­cu­pa­tion by the Ro­mans. Se­cretly, she has been hav­ing a for­bid­den, trai­tor­ous af­fair with the Ro­man gov­er­nor Pol­lione while coun­sel­ing her peo­ple not to rebel against the in­vader un­til the time is right. Then, she dis­cov­ers that Pol­lione, who is about to re­turn home, has taken up with the lovely younger priest­ess Adal­gisa. This is not go­ing to end well.

The ti­tle role has been daunting for its marathon de­mands since Vin­cenzo Bellini first had it pro­duced in 1830. Un­til the past six years, it was only at­tempted by greats such as Maria Cal­las and Joan Suther­land. FGO hasn’t mounted it in a quar­ter-cen­tury.

Khu­do­ley, a Rus­sian so­prano in her FGO de­but, dis­plays en­vi­able tech­nique, When: Now through Satur­day at 8 p.m. Fri­day and Satur­day Where: Adri­enne Ar­sht Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., in Mi­ami Cost: $19-$175 Con­tact: 800-741-1010 or go to Ar­sht­Cen­ter.org Note: The opera will also ap­pear 7:30 p.m. Feb. 11 and Feb. 13 at the Broward Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., in Fort Laud­erdale. Tick­ets cost $21-$200. Call 800-741-1010 or go to BrowardCen­ter.org. For more in­for­ma­tion, go to FGO.org in­clud­ing the dy­namism of her voice ris­ing and fall­ing within a sin­gle note of Bellini’s long vo­cal lines. But she does far more than stand and de­liver notes. Her fa­cial ex­pres­sions, pos­ture and body lan­guage ex­ude the ini­tial com­mand­ing pres­ence of an undis­puted leader and then the agony of a be­trayed lover.

Miller, a Texan pre­vi­ously seen in FGO’s “Rigo­letto,” is not some dewy in­génue, but a full-blooded if ba­si­cally de­cent per­son un­aware that her lover has a his­tory.

Gian­carlo Mon­salve, also mak­ing a lo­cal bow, is per­fectly ser­vice­able as Pol­lione, but he is not in the same league as Khu­do­ley and Miller.

As usual, the leads are dou­ble-cast: Mary El­iz­a­beth Wil­liams plays Norma with Cather­ine Martin as Adal­gisa and Frank Porretta as Pol­lione on al­ter­nat­ing per­for­mances. Check FGO’s web­site for who per­forms on what date.

Bari­tone-bass Craig Col­clough stepped in to play Norma’s father, the high priest Oroveso. Col­clough, a 2012 FGO Young Artist grad­u­ate, gets a rare treat: When Richard Wag­ner con­ducted this piece that he loved, he took the then-com­mon lib­erty of writ­ing a sec­tion for it in the style of the orig­i­nal com­poser. In that case, it was a rous­ing or­a­tory by Oroveso to whip up the pop­u­lace to rebel against the Ro­man oc­cu­piers. Again, rarely per­formed, FGO de­cided to insert it in this pro­duc­tion, and Col­clough re­port­edly learned it in two days.

BRIT­TANY MAZZURCO/COUR­TESY

Mlada Khu­do­ley plays the ti­tle char­ac­ter in Florida Grand Opera’s pro­duc­tion of Bellini’s “Norma.”

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