OPERA IN A MINUTE Norma, a druid priestess, is torn between love for those she leads, and a secret passion for Pollione, the Roman enemy of her people. She bears him two children before discovering he has begun an affair with her younger acolyte. Norma forgives Pollione in the end, and he joins her in her fiery destiny.
ACT I Gaul, 50 BCE, during the Roman occupation Near a forest at night, the priest Oroveso leads the Druids in a prayer for revenge against the conquering Romans. After they have left, the Roman proconsul Pollione admits to his friend Flavio that he no longer loves the high priestess Norma, Oroveso’s daughter, with whom he has secretly had two children. He has fallen in love with a young novice priestess, Adalgisa, who returns his love. The Druids assemble and Norma prays to the moon goddess for peace. She tells her people that as soon as the moment for their uprising against the conquerors arrives, she herself will lead the revolt. At the same time, she realizes that she could never harm Pollione. When the grove is deserted, Adalgisa appears and asks for strength to resist Pollione, who finds her crying and urges her to flee with him to Rome. Norma tells her confidante Clotilde that Pollione has been recalled to Rome. She is afraid that he will desert her and their children. Adalgisa confesses to Norma that she has a lover. Recalling the beginning of her own love affair, Norma is about to release Adalgisa from her vows and asks for the name of her lover. As Pollione appears, Adalgisa answers truthfully. Norma’s kindness turns to fury. She tells Adalgisa about her own betrayal by the Roman soldier. Pollione confesses his love for Adalgisa and asks her again to come away with him, but she refuses and vows she would rather die than steal him from Norma. ACT II Norma tries to bring herself to kill her children in their sleep to protect them from an uncertain future with their father. She changes her mind and summons Adalgisa, advising her to marry Pollione and take the children to Rome. Adalgisa refuses: she will go to Pollione, but only to persuade him to return to Norma and the women reaffirm their friendship. Oroveso announces that a new commander will replace Pollione and tells the Druids that they must be patient to ensure the success of the eventual revolt. Norma is stunned to hear that Adalgisa’s pleas have not persuaded Pollione, and in a rage she urges her people to attack the conquerors. Oroveso demands a sacrificial victim and Pollione is brought in. Alone with him, Norma promises him his freedom if he will leave Adalgisa and return to her. When he refuses, Norma threatens to kill him and their children. She calls the Druids back and tells them that a guilty priestess must die, referring to herself. Moved by her nobility, Pollione asks to share her fate. Norma begs Oroveso to watch over her children and prepares to die with her lover.