James Conlon

'Norma' and 'La Clemenza di Tito' make for a Roman feast

'Norma' and 'La Clemenza di Tito' make for a Roman feast

When American politicians get angry about an issue, whether it's bailing out the banks or same-sex marriage, they like to say that we're heading down the road that led to fall of Rome. However much those assertions rankle historians, we can't, as the illuminating classicist Mary Beard likes to say, get rid of ancient Rome.

What does opera have to say about the matter? It just so happens that two marvelous operas that concern the Roman Empire hit local stages last weekend. Los Angeles Opera unveiled a new production of Bellini's "Norma," one of the wonders of the bel canto repertory. In a more modest setting, the USC opera program mounted Mozart's unconscionably neglected...