There was a moment the other night, at Teatro Comunale di Bologna, where we decided that we couldn't possibly include Kate Aldrich's Adalgisa in the body of the review of Norma -- because that night belonged to Daniela Dessì, and rightly so, but still Aldrich did so many things that were so very special that she totally deserved a review of her own.
We were first exposed to the Aldrich kind of magic a few years ago, watching the 2001 Aida staged in Busseto's incredibly tiny, 300-seat Teatro Verdi, with a stage as big as your kitchen and an orchestra pit where you can barely shoehorn little more than a string quartet, a unique opera house that OC tries to visit every time she is in the area because it looks like the sort of home movie theater rich people have built for themselves in the basements of their Bel Air homes...only for opera, and like, it's 150 years ago.
That mini-Aida, pocket-size, and full of ideas was one of Franco Zeffirelli's best moments -- even if you don't appreciate Frengo's old skooley supertraditional (and, in later times, borderline trashy) approach.
In that production, Aldrich was a pitch-perfect Amneris, radiating dignity and class. After that she appeared in a lot of productions, from Haendel to Verdi via Donizetti and Bellini with great success; and in Bologna she's a beautifully burnished Adalgisa, perfectly holding her own opposite one of the great singers of today, Daniela Dessì, who wiped the floors of opera houses worldwide with many famous colleagues -- and what a pleasure to see Kate, a native Mainer (who could almost be Dessì's daughter btw) attack her part with confidence, sporting a beautifully burnished voice. But the most striking part of her performance was the deep understanding of the dramatic thrust of Felice Romani's libretto, the devastating moment in which, during "Tremi Tu? E per chi?", at the end of Act I, you can witness Aldrich's Adalgisa heart break on that stage, as Norma says the words, "Trema per te, fellone... pei figli tuoi... per me".
The mention of Pollione's children with Norma is the moment when Adalgisa's dreams come crashing down forever; and Aldrich spends the rest of the opera walking among those ruins, a shell-shocked sonnambula with a broken heart -- if you're good enough you don't need an entire mad scene, but simply a reaction to another singer's line.
Opera, nowadays, is stingy with transcendent moments; Kate Aldrich gave us one of those the other night, and for that we are very grateful.
In the video we embed below you can see her -- and other singers -- rehearse "Lucrezia Borgia" in Turin two onths ago under the watchful eye of conductor Bruno Campanella. Around 4:00 you can see Kate almost fell off a stool, with a bonus of the lulz:
And you got to love the moment when Bruno Campanella, that underrated great conductor, cheerfully explains the comedy hidden in Lucrezia: "When her son gets poisoned for the second time, she says, 'My son, you've been poisoned again?' as if to say, you're really a moron, didn't I warn you about what sort of house this is? And every time I get to this moment I really ask myself, what is this, a tragedy? Because it's supposed to be a tragedy but this looks like comedy to me, frankly..."".