how a show is created

The extraordinariness of the theatrical event can be explained also by the fact that the performance on the stage and the reception by the audience are contemporary.
One of the great strengths
of melodrama is this: it’s theater in music
so that it combines the fascination
of the theater with that of music, without belonging exclusively to one or the other.

General index

This Norma

First of all: there is an opera
The first step: the conductor's idea
Meeting with the director
The forest and the tree
Strength and elegance

Where Norma is made:
the departments

Set design: at the Cascine
Props: at Rubechini's
Costumes: at Cerratelli's
Wigs: at Filistrucchi's
Footwear: at Sacchi's

Work in the theatre
Set building
Chorus rehearsals
Band rehearsals
The cast on stage
The lighting session
The singers at the piano
Orchestra rehearsals
Final rehearsals
Towards the première

The libretto and the show

Notes and index
The Teatro Comunale in Florence
The revision and the performance
Notes to the text
Bibliographical notes
Review list
Index of the photographs


text by Mara Cantoni

photographs by Silvia Lelli Masotti

This Norma

Give us back Norma. Almost one hundred and fifty years between us and that moment, that life of opera, small and big events, whims, expectations, carriages, ladies’ gowns, the echo of Napoleon, hopes, salons, quarrels, Austrian officials. Giuditta Pasta, Giulia Grisi, Domenico Donzelli, names, requests, impresarios, letters, a libretto for the occasion, a theater, a public: 1831, at the Scala. Bellini, his school, his being, his writing.

Give us back Norma. We, today. Distant. That life is not ours, we are others, we are far away. A taxi, one means among many, from the offices, from work, in the queues of a city, we go into the theater, a known and conscious ritual, we sit down in our seat and we watch and listen. Again, Norma in a theater, for us. Bellini, his being, his writing. People dressed like us, brought up in the same way with the same books reinvent it in the performance which belongs to us.

Give us back Norma. Pages, notes, marks. An object mysteriously lying among many images, the music score is an archaic presence in a present moment not its own. Bellini, his writing. The autographed score is the only Norma that has stayed true to itself in the changing structures and superstructures. Between the music score and the performance, there is the attempt to avoid betraying either of the two truths: neither that of the opera nor our own.

For those who love music, here is Norma - how a show is created (...), written vivaciously by Mara Cantoni and illustrated with intense images by Silvia Lelli Masotti.

(Corriere della sera, 24 february 1980)

This book, almost unique of its kind (...) leads us on a meticulous visit to all the detached sections where the show takes shape and clearly indicates the existence of a red thread that connects the ideas of the conductor, director, sets, costumes, props and lights designers, singers, chorus and orchestra, to then concentrate on the stage (...)

(Voce del Sud, 22 september 1979)

How an opera is created on the stage; or rather how Norma at Maggio Musicale is created. The main performance of the last Fiorentine season has been well documented in a volume which illustrates each step of the reading and production process, from the philological planning of the opera (...) to the final rehearsals.

(Il Piccolo, 1 october 1979)

Norma - how a show is created is a stimulating and original photo-book on the whole life of the theater show, from the conductor’s idea right up to the première.

(Sorrisi e canzoni Tv, 29 july 1979)

Then there weren’t the “specials” with which we’re saturated today, assailed prematurely by an avalanche of information which suffocates instead of stimulating curiosity regarding a performance. Nor on the other hand was the intention of this book, edited by Musica Viva/Blow-up, simply that of documenting a backstage.

What I was most interested in showing clearly, in perfect harmony with Silvia, was the structure of the work in a lyrical theater, the singularity of its dynamics, of its spaces and timing, underlining in particular the role of the direction in relation to the music score.

This book has been the occasion for the meeting, of decisive importance to me, with Luca Ronconi. I have dedicated other publications to his work especially regarding musical theater. For other material on lyrical opera