Jessye Norman made a smashing debut with the Boston Pops at Symphony Hall last week, but the orchestra didn't do her justice. It wasn't that conductor John Williams didn't try. He has recently resigned because of the players' lack of decorum, and even in this performance some of his motions for quieter playing during her first set were ignored. A weaker singer might have been overpowered, but Miss Norman projected every note and word. Especially thrilling were the cool energy of ''In the Still of the Night'' and the exuberance of ''With a Song in My Heart.''
The orchestra seemed more comfortable playing alone. Tom Ferrante provided a jazzy clarinet solo and the orchestra gave a spirited reading of the medley ''Bernstein on Broadway.'' But the classical set was dully played and sounded almost unrehearsed. This time, tempo signals from Mr. Williams were ignored. And although they dazzled with their usual flawless tone, the orchestra churned out notes like an assembly line.
Had the Boston Pops put half the energy into their playing that Jessye Norman did into her singing, the entire concert would have been exciting. But as it was , the potential remained unrealized.