Sunday, February 21, 2021

LA SONNAMBULA (Wiener Staatsoper)****

 

By Dave

Link: https://play.wiener-staatsoper.at/event/e04d8a15-ba3a-4bea-b935-ca599390f245/play

Available until: 22nd February around 6pm. There might also be future broadcasts.

Louise made a very interesting point about Hamburg Staatsoper’s production of Manon yesterday, mentioning all the ways Manon’s problems are similar to the problems a lot of young people face now.

Wiener Staatsoper’s La sonnambula (an opera I actually haven’t seen before though I have heard it) gave me similar feelings. There seems to be a big focus on jealousy and suspicion in the modern world. Trust seems to have gone right out the window – though as cheating also seems a big part of the modern world, maybe that’s fair enough. Also, the main character, Amina, is treated very badly because of a medical condition that’s misunderstood by society. There’s a lot of that about too but the advantage about the modern world is that more is known about conditions like sleep-walking.

My daughter has made it very clear I’m not the best person to make judgements about clothes but I do feel the costumes in this opera show that Marco Arturo Marelli’s production is quite a modern one. This might mean we have to suspend our disbelief a bit. It wouldn’t mean a complete loss of reputation if Amina was found in Rodolfo’s bedroom now. There would be questions but I reckon if she has her clothes on and her hair’s looking neat it’s probably fair to assume nothing too exciting happened. But this is opera. Some of the best operas have moments that don’t make sense. Sometimes you’ve just got to let it go and enjoy the music and the story.

And it’s not like it’s a terrible production. Marco Arturo Marinelli also did the staging and the lighting and the stage always looks fantastic. It starts of as an immaculate hotel reception room and as the opera goes on, it gets a bit messier and finally it gets trashed. Which is totally realistic for a wedding party and it mirrors Amina’s emotional state. There’s also some really incredible lighting – a sort of half-lit moonlit blue which could symbolise moonlight, sadness or something more sinister.

Guillermo Garcia Calvo conducts and I honestly never realised before how exciting Bellini’s score is. It’s full of emotion and passion and the orchestral accompaniment suggests sympathy with all the characters which seems fair to me. They all get their fair share of heartbreak. I don’t really think there’s a villain here.

Daniela Fally is quite ethereal as Amina. She seems to float around the stage even when she’s not sleep-walking. She has the vocal strength and flexibility for bel canto but it does have a fragility to show Amina’s emotional and physical fragility. It’s hard to imagine how this role could be played better.

Juan Diego Florez, now that’s a name that’s been around for a long time. He’s older than me so he must be ancient! (In the eyes of a twelve year old, anyway. Not so much in mine.) But as Elvino, he’s still vocally (and physically) the perfect romantic hero. His voice is clear and strong and he has a way of putting emotion into it that is really powerful but there’s no distortion of the voice.

Romantic bel canto operas are usually mostly about the central couple and whether they’ll get their happy ending or not but La sonambula has some very interesting supporting characters. Lisa is Amina’s rival and she could be played in a negative way but Maria Nazarova makes her into a second heroine. She’s sincere and touching and without overdoing it, she shows how much Lisa has suffered. It’s very difficult to blame her for taking the chance of happiness when it’s offered, though considering the guy’s past history, maybe there aren’t many grounds for optimism.

 

Rodolfo is another interesting character because there’s one point where he makes a decision and it changes his whole character and then he comes through for someone who really needs it. Luca Pisaroni has a great voice, quite a velvety sound I think I’d call it. And it’s nice seeing a bass character doing something heroic. They’re usually a bit too old or evil for that sort of thing. Mothers in opera can be a bit like basses – they’re usually either evil (or at least a little bit dubious) or absent. Technically, Amina’s mother is absent but her adoptive mother Teresa is around. She has no real personal journey in this opera but Rosie Aldridge gives her quiet strength and she’s clearly completely focused on and invested in Amina. No evil here at all.

A great performance of a really interesting opera.

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