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Bellini La Sonambula

Il Conte Rodolfo Giacomo Prestia
Teresa Nicoletta Curiel
Amina Eva MeiElvino Jose Bros
Lisa Gemma Bertagnolli
Alessio Enrico Turco
Un notaro Saverio Bambi 

Conductor Daniel Oren
Stage Director Frederico Tiezzi
TV Director Paola Longobardo
Set Design Pier Paulo Bisleri
Costume Design Gabriella Pescucci
Lighting Design Vinicio Cheli

TDK  D VD DVWW - OPSON [138 minutes Recorded at Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino , January 2004]

Bellini wrote his sixth opera in only a matter of days, but he did so with the assurance of having the supreme artists of his day, Giuditta Pasta and Giovanni Battista Rubini already engaged to sing the principal roles of Amina and Elvino and his score was designed to show off their supreme artistry and the phenomenal range of their voices.   The first night was a palpable hit.   Dramas involving sleepwalking were in vogue and according to Glinka, there was not a dry eye in the house when Amina picked her way unconsciously across the rooftops.

It's not easy to recreate on an opera stage the sort of heart stopping stunt that cinema has made familiar, especially as Amina must sing, on as much of a vocal knife-point, whilst she takes her perilous sleepwalk.  

Director Frederico Tiezzi has come up with the novel solution of setting the whole opera in the context of a dream.   In doing so he claims inspiration from a wide range of sources, the paintings of Caspar Friedrich, and Enrico Baj, Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain, and Peter Weir's film Picnic at Hanging Rock.  There is an insubstantial quality to his vision on the borderline of consciousness where unlikely shifts in time and space become the norm.   

A springtime picnic is the setting for the first act, but somehow the count's room at the inn transforms, in the wayward nature of dreams, into a cornfield in high summer. By the sleepwalking episode time has shifted again, it is midwinter with deep snow and ice to add to the hazards of Amina's peregrination.

The chorus gathers on the periphery of the stage, their presence can be felt but they have no substance and their faces and expressions are always concealed by shadow.   At first their elaborate Victorian costumes and hats are an anonymous white, but this is replaced with black when the romance turns sour, and they group like a menacing flock of crows with their black feathered hats standing out against the snow.

The illusion works well throughout and incorporates a huge amount of detail to merit repeated viewing.

The principal singers, Eva Mei and Jose Bros, are bel canto specialists and give virtuoso performances making light of the difficult score. The smaller roles are also well filled.   Daniel Oren is a rising star, for whom the orchestra shines, with every decorative detail in place.

Serena Fenwick




© Peter Grahame Woolf