The opera is regarded as a leading example of the bel canto genre, and the soprano prayer "Casta diva" in act 1 is a famous piece. Probably the most important Norma of the first half of the 20th century was Rosa Ponselle who triumphed in the role both in New York and in London. Notable exponents of the title role in the post-war period have been Maria Callas, Leyla Gencer, Joan Sutherland, Montserrat Caballé and, in the 2015 Biondi-Minasi critical edition based on Bellini's autograph score, Cecilia Bartoli.
The action takes place in Gaul under the Roman occupation, and is centered on the triangular love affair between Pollione, the Roman proconsul of Gaul, Norma, his former companion, and the young Adalgisa. The background is the uprising of the Gallic people against the Roman occupiers, led by the Druid Oroveso.
Norma, the high priestess of the Druid temple, who had two children by Pollione, the Roman proconsul of Gaul, breaking her Druid chastity vows, discovers that her lover is now in love with her friend, the young Druid priestess Adalgisa. Norma tries to convince Pollione to give up Adalgisa and return to her, but he refuses. Norma publicly confesses her fault and is sentenced to death by fire. Pollione is convicted for pursuing Adalgisa in the temple and goes to the stake with Norma.
Norma - Maria Callas
Pollione - Mario Filippeschi
Adalgisa - Ebe Stignani
Oroveso - Nicola Rossi-Lemeni
La Scala Opera Orchestra and Chorus
Tullio Serafin - conductor
WARNER CLASSICS - Remastered 1954 studio recording