Norma, considered one of the most difficult roles in the entire soprano repertoire, has become central to Papian's career: she has sung the Druid priestess at houses from the Vienna State Opera and Netherlands Opera to the Washington National Opera and the companies of Detroit, Denver, Baltimore, Warsaw, Turin, Marseilles and Montreal (among others).
This 2006 comment from The Denver Post's Kyle MacMillan is typical of the critical reception Papian's portrayal receives: "Most important, she adroitly handles the role's nonstop vocal demands — the two-octave leaps, devilishly intricate ornamentations and fast-shifting dynamics — with near-perfect articulation and stunning phrasing, every note in place." And Philip Kennicott wrote in The Washington Post in 2003: "Her singing is gorgeous. The coloratura display was accurate and on pitch, and well woven into the larger, lyrical fabric of the role."
Papian sings Norma — with co-stars Dolora Zajick, Franco Farina and Vitalij Kowaljow — this evening and November 16, 19 and 23 at the Metropolitan Opera House. Maria Guleghina — who just finished a run as Lady Macbeth in Verdi's version of Shakespeare's "Scottish play" — takes over the role for four more performances November 25 through December 7. Information and tickets are available at www.metopera.org.