Interview with Neil Kirkman, director for Bellini’s ‘Norma’, Bath Opera’s next fully staged show in February 2025

Neil Kirkman, you will be directing Bellini’s ‘Norma’ next February. Your thoughts at this early stage?

Plans are well afoot for this next artistic pinnacle we will be climbing together. The more preparation I do the more excited (and perhaps, slightly daunted) I am by the task we have set ourselves. Norma is a big undertaking for a largely amateur company but those who recently heard the live relay of Semele from Munich Opera house will know how well our performances compare to professional productions, so I’m sure that we are all up for it. Although Norma is undoubtedly a dark dramatic opera, rehearsals are going to be a hoot – I mean how often do
you get to participate in virgin sacrifices or burning people alive… it’s going to be shoals of fun!! Will Stevens [Musical Director] has been labouring away finding the best orchestral reduction for our purposes so we have as rich a sound as possible coming from the orchestra ‘pit’.

I understand this will be the first time Bath Opera will be singing in Italian?!

Yes, Will and I could not find an English translation that did this wonderful opera justice, so we are breaking new ground! There will be surtitles for the audience to follow what is going on. In fact, the English reduction for subtitles has already been completed. This will be written into a master copy of the score which will then be photocopied for all the cast – it will also be available as a stand-alone document, the reading of which in one go really helps to understand the storyline. I have found preparing this extremely useful.
The auditions will be soon?

The auditions for principals’ roles are all set for 11am on 2nd June and details are on the website. I understand that we already have a good line up of auditionees interested – some well-known to us, and others new. I hope to see many members there either to audition or as audience – it’s always a fascinating experience.
Anything else you would like to mention about the production?

My garden is starting to fill up with props we will need…the firewood for the sacrificial pyre is already cut and stacked, the druid’s staffs and clubs are all cut, Norma’s sacred sickle is made…. etc. etc. before moving up in scale to the ‘Stonehenge like’ standing stones! One thing my garden can’t provide is Mistletoe which plays an important part in Druid ceremonies (and no, we don’t kiss underneath it!) If anyone has access to any, please let me know!