Sunday, March 22, 2009

La Sonnambula at the Met

Go for the Music

Saturday afternoon I enjoyed the Metropolitan Opera's new production of Vincenzo Bellini's La Sonnambula (The Sleepwalker) projected in HD at a movie theater. The story has to do with complications that ensue after young charmer Amina turns up the bed of a philandering Count. The visuals and the music were gorgeous, with tenor Juan Diego Flórez showing superb sensitivity for the beauty of Bellini's phrasing as Elvino. All of vocalism was very impressive, with Natalie Dessay in the title role, Jennifer Black as Lisa, Jane Bunnell as Teresa, Jeremy Galyon as Alessio (his Met debut), and Michele Pertusi making an excellent impression as Count Rodolfo.

I liked what director Mary Zimmerman did with her previous Met production, Lucia di Lammermoor, and I generally liked the energy that infuses La Sonnambula. But I concur with the New York Times (and many others) in finding that Zimmerman's resetting of the opera from a Swiss village to a Manhattan rehearsal studio undermines Felice Romani's already problematic storyline, making it more confusing. Yet it's still worthwhile to sit back in the movie theater (and, I imagine, the Met itself) and enjoy the extraordinary musicianship that permeates the production.

This season the Met offers three more performances of La Sonnambula (on March 24, March 28, and April 3) and one "encore" performance of the HD version (on April 1 in the US and April 25 in Canada).

Here's Anna Moffo (with Danilo Vega) in a 1956 live telecast of La Sonnambula. Give the aria some time to work its magic.


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