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quarta-feira, abril 01, 2009

Sleep Disorder

Nobody ever said La Sonnambula was an opera of great dramatic substance. How does a director get under the work's romantic surface? As the Met prepares to unveil its eagerly-awaited new production, STEVEN BLIER reflects on the difficulties involved in staging Bellini's masterpiece.

Scotto in La Sonnambula, 1972
© Beth Bergman 2009

Joan Sutherland, as Amina in the Met's 1963 production of La Sonnambula, directed by Henry Butler and designed by Rolf Gérard
Louis Melançon/OPERA NEWS Archives
Henry Fuseli's The Nightmare, a late-eighteenth-century image of Gothic romance's dark side

I first saw La Sonnambula at the Met in 1964 during the World's Fair season, a special two-week bonanza in May when the company gathered some of its biggest stars to dazzle the tourists who were flooding into the city. I spent a weekend crammed into the Family Circle hearing Aida, Manon and La Sonnambula. At that age I didn't have a particularly developed visual sense — I was all ears — but I remember wincing a bit on Sunday night when the curtain went up on Bellini's opera. The stage had the look of a high-school musical in a very wealthy suburb. This Sonnambula was clearly tailored to show off Joan Sutherland. All of Amina's music was included, but everyone else's arias were cut to just one verse, and the secondary soprano role of Lisa lost her second aria altogether.

This truncated version of the opera was pretty standard at that time. It was the way Callas performed and recorded the piece, and it made Sonnambula into a true prima donna vehicle. At the Met, Sutherland's extraordinary vocalism was unforgettable; the sound of her high E-flat sailing over the chorus and orchestra at the end of the inn scene still pulsates in my autonomic nervous system. But it was clear that we were gathered together to hear one special woman sing. There was no pretense of making the story relevant or believable, and no one expected it. After all, La Sonnambula is pretty silly, isn't it? That's what all the critics said.

Director Mary Zimmerman, third from left, and Natalie Dessay, far right, colleagues for the Met's 2007 Lucia di Lammermoor (in rehearsal), will be reunited this season for the company's new La Sonnambula.

Um comentário:

Mari Cuencas disse...

My favourite "fairy-tale like" Opera of all time!

Bellini rules!!! =D