La Sonnambula

by Vincenzo Bellini

Victorian Opera
Hamer Hall, Arts Centre
http://victorianopera.com.au

Melbourne, Australia
  • Conductor Richard Mills
  • May 2017
    05
    Friday
    12:00 > 15:00
    3 hours
Find out more about the Cast , the Composition , the Composer or what the Reviews say

La Sonnambula

Cast

Press & Reviews

Opera Chaser
An evening of outstanding bel canto bliss with Victorian Opera's La sonnambula in concert
When Pratt took to the stage wearing a black bodiced gown of evening blue and long-draped smokey shawl, then catapulted her recitative and cavatina, "Care compagne - Come per me sereno", to extraordinary heights, a palpable change took hold that seemed to guarantee the magnificent night it was to become. Assured, relaxed and commanding a sense of effortless freedom, Pratt embodied the stupendous beauty of voice that places her as a leader in her art and gives the 21st century a new bel canto star. Every smoothly shaped phrase came with an emotively expressed and engaged magnetism that aided in deflecting attention away from her and onto the first joyous, then innocent, wrongly accused and aching-hearted Amina. Pratt's consummate professionalism shone through via her rapport with her colleagues and commitment to her understated acting while exuding soft and natural elegance befitting her presence as both a star performer and role interpreter. As Act 1 headed towards a colossal finale in which Elvino rejects Amina, Pratt's prowess with the most fragile pianissimo and ability to sustain length of note was a moving experience. From there, Pratt embarked on a blazing display of coloratura fireworks big enough to stun the city. Then, returning in a long black fitted gown in Act 2, Pratt maintained the perfection and natural warmth all the way to the jubilant finale.
Simon Parris: Man in Chair
Simon Parris
Victorian Opera: La Sonnambula review
Besides the divine quality of her singing, a key facet of Pratt’s success is the meticulously considered control of her vocals. After opening aria “Care compagne” Pratt had already blown the audience away with her exquisite voice, and yet she had clearly held back as fitted the character and situation as part of a calibrated performance across the entire evening. In much the same way as in Lucia di Lammermoor last year, Pratt paid tribute to the great Dame Joan Sutherland, largely using the same ornamentations. Amina’s singing reaches a climax at the finale, with a pair of arias, one sorrowful, one joyful. Despite the dramatic moment, Pratt could not help but permit a sweet smile after “Ah! non credea mirarti,” such was the unbridled enthusiasm of the audience’s response. An interpolated high F at end of “Ah! non giunge uman pensiero” helped to bring the opera to a stunning close.
O'Connell the Music
Clive O'Connell
Pratt takes the honours
Jessica Pratt proved more than equal to the task with admirable technical control and a fine characterization of open-hearted simplicity. Pratt gave us an excellent Amina, from her first appearance to the happy (and quick) resolution of the opera’s action. In the initial Come per me sereno cavatina, she demonstrated how to handle the composer’s thick fioriture, particularly in a throw-away piece of brilliance at non, non brillo (the sort of startling facility that typified Sutherland at her best), and again at a quicksilver non ha forza a sostener. In fact, Pratt sustained her role beyond expectations at the crucial point where she is spurned by Elvino, maintaining our sympathy throughout the D’un pensiero quintet and the following Act 1 finale where again the character yields dynamic and range primacy to her ex-fiance – whom any spirited girl outside opera would have now given up as a waste of space. But it’s Ah non credea mirarti that crowns the opera – a surprisingly non-flamboyant peak, but you can expect only a few flashes of brilliance from a sleepwalking heroine (unless you happen to be watching Lady Macbeth or Lucia). Pratt mirrored her opening aria’s happiness with a moving depiction of a credulous soul finding consolation in her dreams. But the pretty-well packed hall was waiting for the fireworks of Ah! non giunge, and Pratt didn’t disappoint...

Classic Melbourne
Patricia Maunder
Victorian Opera: La Sonnambula
Above all, we had come to hear Australian-born, Italian-based Pratt in her now annual appearance with Victorian Opera, which has been instrumental in the company bringing back bel canto favourites by Bellini and Donizetti to Melbourne stages (some rarely seen since Joan Sutherland’s day; and yes, there were positive whispers of comparison between the great dame and Pratt). With a stunning combination of talent and technique, she mesmerised the audience as Amina. Beautiful tone, flawless control, excellent diction, stratospheric top notes, agile trills, pianissimo that was, somehow, simultaneously delicate and powerful, expression that revealed a profound understanding of character and score – Pratt demonstrated the full arsenal of a great coloratura soprano. Brava!
Australian Book Review
Peter Rose
La Sonnambula (Victorian Opera)
Her singing was every bit as good as it was in that memorable Puritani. There were many highlights: Amina’s first aria, ‘Come per me sereno’ and the brilliant cabaletta that follows; her Act One duets with Elvino; ‘D’un pensiero e d’un accento’, the ensemble that closes that act. Then Amina is largely absent until the long scene that completes the opera, Ah! Non credea mirarti’. Here, softly or unaccompanied, the beauty of Pratt’s tone and the accuracy of her singing were at their most obvious. This magnificent aria (sung with great feeling by Maria Callas in a 1965 concert) was followed by a suitably exultant ‘Ah! Non giunge uman pensiero’ – one of the most celebrated cabalettas in the Italian repertoire.
Limelight Magazine
Ben Wilkie
Review: La Sonnambula (Victorian Opera)
Which brings us to Jessica Pratt, who captivated from the moment she appeared on stage. It seemed improbable that she might surpass her rousing opening aria, Care compagne, yet as the evening progressed the audience grew increasingly rapturous, and Pratt led the opera to a spectacular close, reaching phenomenal heights in the final sections of Ah! non giunge uman pensiero. There is little more to say about Pratt that has not already been said many times before, and so I simply note that the rumours are true: her voice is exquisite, and Victorian Opera put on a damned good show.

Stage Whispers
Graham Ford
La Sonnambula
Exquisite! There was no other word for it... ...Although I own a number of recordings, I don’t have one in which the soprano would match what I heard from Jessica. Showing a restraint that is unusual in opera, the voice displayed was unfailingly beautiful. She only opened up in the big ensembles and nailed a beautiful high F at the end. It was a very special night. ...no one who was there will ever forget it.
The Australian
Peter Burch
Victorian Opera’s La Sonnambula: energetic portrayal of a sleepwalker
In the title role of Amina, ­acclaimed international diva Jessica Pratt returned to Melbourne to head a superb cast...
NBR
John Daly-Peoples
Australian music: Victorian Opera's 'La Sonnambula'
From her opening “Care compagne” she had the audience enthralled as she invested the aria with amazing technical and emotional verve. Her voice was voluptuous and she had a robust stage presence, performing with a slight coquettishness that gave her a real sense of character. Her use of coloratura throughout the work added immensely to her performance, her voice towering over the other singers and orchestra, culminating in the final grand sextet: “Signor..che creder deggio.”

The Composition

La Sonnambula

Libretto written in italian by Felice Romani, was first premiered on a Sunday on March 06 of 1831
La sonnambula (The Sleepwalker) is an opera semiseria in two acts, with music in the bel canto tradition by Vincenzo Bellini set to an Italian libretto by Felice Romani, based on a scenario for a ballet-pantomime written by Eugène Scribe and choreographed by Jean-Pierre Aumer called La somnambule, ou L'arrivée d'un nouveau seigneur. The ballet had premiered in Paris in September 1827 at the height of a fashion for stage works incorporating somnambulism.
Synopsis
Act 1 Scene 1: A village, a mill in the background As the betrothal procession of Amina and Elvino approaches, the villagers all proclaiming joy for Amina, Lisa, the proprietress of the inn, comes outside expressing her misery: Tutto è gioia, tutto è festa...Sol per me non non v'ha contento / "All is joy and merriment... I alone am miserable". She is consumed with jealousy for she had once been betrothed to Elvino and had been abandoned by him in favour of Amina. The lovelorn Alessio arrives, but she rejects his advances. All assembled proclaim the beauty of Amina: In Elvezia non v'ha rosa / fresca e cara al par d'Amina / "In Switzerland there is no flower sweeter, dearer than Amina". Then Amina comes out of the mill with her foster-mother, Teresa. She is the owner of the mill and had adopted Amina many years before. Amina thanks her, also expressing her thanks to her assembled friends for their kind wishes. (Aria: Come per me sereno / oggi rinacque il di! / "How brightly this day dawned for me".) Additionally, she thanks Alessio, who tells her that he has composed the wedding song and organised the celebrations; she wishes him well in his courtship of Lisa, but Lisa cynically rejects the idea of love. Elvino arrives, exclaiming Perdona, o mio diletta / "Forgive me my beloved", and explaining that he had to stop on his way at his mother's grave to ask her blessing on Amina. As they exchange vows, the notary asks what she brings to the partnership: "Only my heart" she answers at which Elvino's exclaims: "Ah the heart is everything!". (Elvino's aria, then Amina, then all express their love and their joy: Prendi: l'anel ti dono / che un dì recava all'ara / "Here, receive this ring that the beloved spirit who smiled upon our love wore at the altar".) The sound of horses' hooves and a cracking whip is heard. A stranger arrives, asking the way to the castle. Lisa points out that it is getting late and he will not reach it before dark and she offers him lodging at her inn. When he says that he knows it, all are surprised. (Rodolfo's aria: Vi ravviso, o luoghi ameni, / in cui lieti, in cui sereni / "O lovely scenes, again I see you, / where in serenity I spent the calm and happy days of my earliest youth".) The newcomer, who surprises the villagers by his familiarity with the locality, asks about the celebrations and admires Amina, who reminds him of a girl he had loved long ago. (Tu non sai con quei begli occhi / come dolce il cor mi tocchi / "You can't know how those dear eyes gently touch my heart, what adorable beauty".) He admits to having once stayed in the castle, whose lord has been dead for four years. When Teresa explains that his son had vanished some years previously, the stranger assures them that he is alive and will return. As darkness approaches the villagers warn him that it is time to be indoors to avoid the village phantom: A fosco cielo, a notte bruna,/ al fioco raggio d'incerta luna / "When the sky is dark at night, and the moon's rays are weak, at the gloomy thunder's sound [....] a shade appears." Not being superstitious, he assures them that they will soon be free of the apparition. Elvino is jealous of the stranger's admiration of Amina; he is jealous even of the breezes that caress her, but he promises her he will reform. (Duet finale, Elvino and Amina: Son geloso del zefiro errante / che ti scherza col crin e col velo / "I envy the wandering breeze that plays with your hair, your veil..") Scene 2: A room in the inn Lisa enters Rodolfo's room to see if all is well. She reveals that his identity is known to all as Rodolfo, the long-lost son of the count. She advises him that the village is preparing a formal welcome; meanwhile she wishes be the first to pay her respects. She is flattered when he begins a flirtation with her, but runs out at the sound of people approaching, dropping her handkerchief which the Count picks up. He sees the approaching phantom who he recognises as Amina. She enters the room, walking in her sleep, all the while calling for Elvino and asking where he is. Realising that her nocturnal wanderings have given rise to the story of the village phantom, Rodolfo is about to take advantage of her helpless state. But then he is struck by her obvious innocence and refrains: (Scene: first Rodolfo: O ciel! che tento / "God! What am I doing?"; then, separately, Amina: Oh! come lieto è il popolo / "How happy all the people are, accompanying us to the church"; then together.) As Amina continues her sleepwalk, Rodolfo hears the sound of people approaching and, with no other way out, he climbs out of the window. Amina continues to sleep on the sofa as the villagers arrive at the inn. Lisa enters and points to Amina, who wakes up at the noise. Elvino, believing her faithless, rejects her in fury. Only Teresa believes in her innocence: Ensemble finale, first Amina D'un pensiero e d'un accento / "In my thought or in my words never , never have I sinned"; then Elvino: Voglia il cielo che il duol ch'io sento / "Heaven keep you from feeling ever the pain that I feel now!"; then the people and Teresa, the former proclaiming her treachery, Teresa pleading for her to be allowed to explain. Elvino then exclaims that there will be no wedding, and each expresses his or her emotional reaction to this discovery. Act 2 Scene 1: A wood On their way to ask the count to attest to Amina's innocence, the villagers rest in the woods and consider how they will express their support to him: (Chorus: Qui la selva è più folta ed ombrosa / "Here the wood is thick and dark"). Amina and Teresa arrive and are on a similar mission, but Amina is despondent, although Teresa encourages her daughter to continue. They then see Elvino coming in the wood looking downcast and sad. He continues to reject Amina, even when the townspeople come in with the news that the count says that she is innocent. Elvino is not convinced and takes back the ring, though he is unable to tear her image from his heart: (Aria, then chorus: Ah! Perché non posso odiarti, infedel, com'io vorrei! / "Why cannot I despise you, faithless, as I should?") Scene 2: The village, as in act 1 Lisa, Alessio, Elvino and the villagers are in the square. Elvino declares that he will renew his vows and proceed to marry Lisa. She is delighted. As they are about to go to the church, Rodolfo enters and tries to explain that Amina is innocent because she did not come to his room awake – she is a somnambulist, a sleepwalker: (Duet, first Elvino Signor Conte, agli occhi miei / negar fede non poss'io / "I cannot deny, my lord, what my eyes have seen"; then Rodolfo V'han certuni che dormendo / "Certain people when they sleep go about as if awake".) Elvino refuses to believe him and calls upon Lisa to leave, but at that moment Teresa begs the villagers to be quiet, because Amina has at last fallen into an exhausted sleep. Learning of the impending marriage, Teresa confronts Lisa, who says that she has never been found alone in a man's room. Teresa produces the handkerchief Lisa had dropped. The Count is unwilling to say what he thinks of this, but continues to insist on Amina's virtue. Elvino demands proof and Rodolfo, seeing the sleeping Amina walking across the high, dangerously unstable mill bridge, warns that to wake her would be fatal. All watch as she relives her betrothal and her grief at Elvino's rejection, taking the withered flowers in her hand. (Aria: Amina Ah! non credea mirarti / sì presto estinto, o fiore / "I had not thought I would see you, dear flowers, perished so soon". Then as she reaches the other side safely, the distraught Elvino calls to her and she is taken into his arms. Rodolfo hands him the ring which he places on her finger, at which time she awakens and is amazed by what has happened. All rejoice. In an aria finale, Amina expresses her joy: Ah! non giunge uman pensiero / al contento ond'io son piena / "Human thought cannot conceive of the happiness that fills me".

Vincenzo Bellini

Short biography of the composer
Vincenzo Salvatore Carmelo Francesco Bellini (3 November 1801 – 23 September 1835) was an Italian opera composer, who was known for his long-flowing melodic lines for which he was named "the Swan of Catania". Many years later, in 1898, Giuseppe Verdi "praised the broad curves of Bellini's melody: 'there are extremely long melodies as no-one else had ever made before' " A large amount of what is known about Bellini's life and his activities comes from surviving letters—except for a short period—which were written over his lifetime to his friend Francesco Florimo, whom he had met as a fellow student in Naples and with whom he maintained a lifelong friendship. Other sources of information come from correspondence saved by other friends and business acquaintances. Bellini was the quintessential composer of the Italian bel canto era of the early 19th century, and his work has been summed up by the London critic Tim Ashley as: ... also hugely influential, as much admired by other composers as he was by the public. Verdi raved about his "long, long, long melodies ..." Wagner, who rarely liked anyone but himself, was spellbound by Bellini's almost uncanny ability to match music with text and psychology. Liszt and Chopin professed themselves fans. Of the 19th-century giants, only Berlioz demurred. Those musicologists who consider Bellini to be merely a melancholic tunesmith are now in the minority. In considering which of his operas can be seen to be his greatest successes over the almost two hundred years since his death, Il pirata laid much of the groundwork in 1827, achieving very early recognition in comparison to Donizetti's having written thirty operas before his major 1830 triumph with Anna Bolena. Both I Capuleti ed i Montecchi at La Fenice in 1830 and La sonnambula in Milan in 1831 reached new triumphal heights, although initially Norma, given at La Scala in 1831 did not fare as well until later performances elsewhere. "The genuine triumph" of I puritani in January 1835 in Paris capped a significant career. Certainly, Capuleti, La sonnambula, Norma, and I puritani are regularly performed today. After his initial success in Naples, most of the rest of his short life was spent outside of both Sicily and Naples, those years being followed with his living and composing in Milan and Northern Italy, and—after a visit to London—then came his final masterpiece in Paris, I puritani. Only nine months later, Bellini died in Puteaux, France at the age of 33.

Timeline

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