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'La Sonnambula' panned by Mike Silverman

K K and I went to the Metropolitan Opera last night to see 'La Sonnambula' (The Sleepwalker), although the set designer and director took some unusual creative liberties (and were subsequently booed at the end of the performance), the performers/singers did a remarkable job!


Something I was not expecting were "Met Titles", a custom designed system for simultaneous translation created by the Metropolitan Opera, available for all opera performances. Met Titles are seen on individual screens on the seat backs, on stanchions and at all Standing Room locations except the Grand Tier. The screen is controlled by each viewer, so that any audience member who wishes not to utilize Met Titles can choose not to turn them on. The screens are polarized, therefore they are not easily visible from either side, to minimize intrusion on neighboring seats.

Read the critical review of 'La Sonnambula' by Mike Silverman (AP) below:



Met Opera makes a travesty of 'La Sonnambula'

By MIKE SILVERMAN – 10 hours ago

NEW YORK (AP) — In the final scene of Vincenzo Bellini's opera "La Sonnambula," the heroine is reunited with her true love after sleepwalking across the dangerously high eaves of a rooftop.

Had she caught a glimpse of the new production that opened at the Metropolitan Opera on Monday night, she might have decided to jump instead.

Director Mary Zimmerman has taken this fragile pastoral fantasy — set to some of the most gorgeous melodies ever written — and imposed a play-within-a-play framework that makes a joke of the story and robs it of its sentimental charm.

So, instead of Amina and Elvino in a Swiss village, we get opera singers who happen to be named Amina and Elvino, rehearsing a production of "La Sonnambula" in a large, modern studio. At first it almost makes sense — the performers are in love, just like their characters in the opera. But the lines quickly blur as the plot unfolds. In the opera, Amina sleepwalks into the bedroom of the visiting Count, causing her jealous lover to think her unfaithful. Only when he sees her sleepwalk again does he realize she is innocent. But in this production, who is the Count, exactly, and why wouldn't the modern-day Elvino know that his fiancee walks in her sleep?

Zimmerman clearly has no use for the libretto by poet Felice Romani, referring to it in program notes as "famously light and ... a little incredible." She shares this opinion with soprano Natalie Dessay, who stars as Amina and who reportedly insisted the production be set just about anywhere except a real Swiss village.

Dessay gets two of the evening's biggest laughs, both at the expense of genuine feeling. The climactic high note of her opening aria should be an expression of joy at her upcoming marriage; instead, it becomes a shriek of dismay as a cart full of ugly wigs is wheeled out. Even worse, just before launching into her unearthly beautiful final aria, she breaks out of her trance long enough to scrawl the word "ARIA" on a blackboard. Gales of laughter; spell broken.

The triumphant ending, with Amina and Elvino reunited, becomes an occasion for one more gag, as the chorus, dressed until now in street clothes, appear in Swiss villager garb. Amina and Elvino sprout peasant outfits as well, and suddenly they're apparently performing the finale of the "real" opera.

"La Sonnambula" was wildly successful at its premiere in 1831 and throughout much of the 19th century, but it's admittedly not as easy for modern audiences to take seriously as some other works of that era. It's neither a blood-soaked tragedy like Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor," nor a comic romp like his "La Fille du Regiment" ("The Daughter of the Regiment").

Both of those were big hits at the Met last season, both starring Dessay. Zimmerman also directed the "Lucia," taking some liberties (introducing a ghost and a photographer who shoots the wedding party during the Sextet), but remaining more or less true to the spirit of the work.

This time she and her production teammates have done the opera a disservice, and they deserved the boos to which they were subjected at their curtain call.

When Dessay wasn't clowning, she did some lovely singing. She gave that final aria, "Ah! non credea mirarti," a hushed, soulful quality that seemed the very definition of mournfulness. And in the ecstatic cabaletta that follows, "Ah! non giunge" her high notes had an enviable sparkle.

As Elvino, tenor Juan Diego Flores, who conquered those nine high C's last season in "La Fille," sang with angelic purity and impressive command of bel canto ornamentation. Bass Michele Pertusi lent strong support as the Count, but soprano Jennifer Black had difficulty in her upper register as Lisa, Amina's rival for Elvino's affections.

Conductor Evelino Pido led a buoyant reading of the score, never rushing the long melodic lines for which Bellini is famous.

"La Sonnambula" is the final new production of the season. It will be performed eight more times, including a matinee on Saturday, March 21, that will be broadcast in movie theaters in high definition.

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Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
nipper_dawg
Mar. 3rd, 2009 06:53 pm (UTC)
Who knew you were cultured, just like Yogurt :)

i love Opera fans. Since most of them are season subscribers (and The Met is still one of those affordable wonders for a subscription), they go and will voise thier sheer glee, and displeasure with raw honesty.

It is rare for these days to hear boos at the Met, but they are Refreshing, especially when it is selective.

The MET titles have been around for a few years, and is a wonderful idea. It does save one from sitting there with a libreto to try and follow along.
mc4bbs
Mar. 3rd, 2009 07:39 pm (UTC)

Surprise! I do other types of dark rooms! ;-)

The hisses and boos were well earned! They took far too much liberty with the performance...

As for Met Titles, they apparently were added in 2000. I think it was a good thing, although, I'm sure some purists would object.

grandiva1968
Dec. 29th, 2012 07:56 pm (UTC)
What, they'd rather have supertitles projected onto the proscenium?
danbearnyc
Mar. 3rd, 2009 09:45 pm (UTC)
Like the old Pia Zadora/Anne Frank joke: She's in the attic!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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