Bellini's masterpiece, which opened last Saturday with five further performances in Leeds and later in Nottingham, the Lowry and Newcastle, should definitely not be missed. The greatest of all bel-canto operas, it is an enormous challenge to any opera company. This was handsomely met by Opera North, inspired probably by the performance's dedicatee Maria Callas, the greatest Norma of them all.

From the first moment, the orchestra was electrifying, the strong, healthy voices of Oroveso [James Cresswell, bass] and Pollione [Luis Chapa, tenor] magnetic. The eager chorus then assembled to welcome their priestess Norma [Annemarie Kremer, soprano] who was as athletic in body as in voice, mesmerising, and soon to discover the identity of her lover's mistress [Adalgisa, mezzo-soprano].

The many duets, trios and choruses movingly followed their destiny and finally led to the the tragic conclusion with an ensemble of overwhelming intensity, all under the inspired baton of Oliver von Dohnanyi.

* February 4, 9, 15, 17. Phone 0844 848 2705.

John Pettitt