It’s been a while since I was at the Royal Opera House (that’s two months actually,) and this time round I was coming back to see Bellini’s bel canto fantasy world where religion, chastity, and loyalty just isn’t enough. After Alex Ollé’s (of La Fura dels Baus) production was first announced to the public, its signed-off soprano, Anna Netrebko bailed out where Sonya Yoncheva came in. And may I add, this isn’t the first time this has happened. It was this Spring at the Covent Garden that she was her replacement in La bohème, where she provided a worthy Mimì- encouraging tears and tissue hugging from most members of the audience.
Sonya Yoncheva is gaining a strong fan base, and her presence on the stage is enough to warrant grabbing a ticket to any of her performances. For a soprano role as tough as Norma, let alone La bohème, or La Traviata, she has truly proven her mettle. The strongest highlight of the show and one that shall stick in my memory is her interpretation of Casta Diva. Yes, once used in a Jean Paul Gautier TV commercial, this aria was popularly known in the 19th century as well. It is a spectacular one that relies on a simple melody with the symbolism of purity and holiness engraved into the character of Norma. Yoncheva achieves lightness and softness of tone, compared to other voices such as Maria Callas and this year’s lead, Marjorie Owens at the English National Opera, who sang with more fire and gusto, equally enjoyable nonetheless.