You can see Casablanca over and over, designed to be frozen in time. But the best live performance art – not once-removed audio or videoed versions – is a transient one-time experience.
So when Florida Grand Opera agreed to produce Norma, Bellini’s masterpiece infrequently mounted because of its Herculean demands on the few divas willing to perform it, it provided an opportunity for local audiences to experience what they had only heard other people talk about or had listened to on recordings.
Fortunately, FGO’s version that opened Saturday is a superbly executed triumph that melds technical mastery and gut-wrenching emotion from not just the soprano Mlada Khudoley nailing the title role of the middle-aged Druid priestess, but from mezzo Dana Beth Miller matching her head-to-head 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 she and Miller in their duets is like watching two birds in flight, one changing course only to be mirrored instantly by her companion.