WORKS: La Sonnambula
PERFORMER: Natalie Dessay, Juan Diego Flórez, Michele Pertusi, Jennifer Black, Jane Bunnell, Jeremy Galyon, Bernard Fitch; The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Chorus and Ballet/Evelino Pidò; dir. Mary Zimmerman (New York, 2009)
CATALOGUE NO: 074 3357
Inch by inch the Met drags itself into the late 20th century. So Mary Zimmerman, trailing Broadway clouds of glory, is imported to direct La sonnambula. ‘The plot,’ she says, ‘is famously light and even for the world of opera, a little incredible.’ Notice the emphasis on the word ‘even’.
Ms Zimmerman, it seems, has ‘issues’ with ‘opera’. So out goes the familiar Tyrolean setting and in walks Amina and Elvino, on- and off-stage lovers who are rehearsing a run-of the-mill production of La sonnambula in a studio in up-to-the-minute Manhattan.
Lisa becomes stage manager, Rodolpho a Little Italy lounge lizard and the villagers an ill-assorted bunch in casual clothes. Is it any more than directorial chic to make it a play-within-a-play when the result is so far removed from Bellini and Romani’s carefully wrought exercise in the Pastoral?
Much worse, the production squanders the talents of what have to be just about the best Elvino and Amina about right now. The role of Amina holds no terrors for Natalie Dessay: indeed she leaves such an inimitable stamp on ‘Ah! non credea mirarti…Ah! non giunge’ that you wonder how it could be sung any other way.
As Elvino, Juan Diego Flórez is richer in tone than in recent performances and you feel the violence ignited by his sexual jealousy. In the pit, Evelino Pidò is everything you need, attentive to the score and ever watchful of his singers. Christopher Cook