MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2023
Approaching 60,000 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             


Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

alternatively AmazonUK   AmazonUS



Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835)
La Sonnambula - melodramma in two acts (1831)
Amina, Natalie Dessay (soprano); Elvino, Francesco Meli (tenor); Il Conte Rodolfo, Carlo Colombara (bass);
Teresa, Sara Mingardo (mezzo); Lisa, Jaël Azzaretti (soprano); Alessio, Paul Gay (bass)
Orchestra and Chorus of the Lyon Opera/Evelino Pido
rec. November 2006 during and subsequent to the concert performances at the Opéra National de Lyon
Using the new Critical Edition by Alessandro Roccataglia and Luca Zappelli
VIRGIN CLASSICS 3951382 [77.53 + 52.33]


In May 1830 the Duke of Litta and two rich associates formed a Society to sponsor opera at La Scala, Milan. They were concerned to raise the musical standards that had seen Rossini, Meyerbeer and others decamp to Paris. They engaged most of the famous singers of the time including Giuditta Pasta and the tenor Giovanni Battista Rubini. Donizetti and Bellini, whom they considered to be the best active Italian composers, were each contracted to write an opera for the season. This was to be to a libretto set by the renowned Felice Romani. However, Litta and his associates failed to secure La Scala for their plans, which were instead realised at the Teatro Carcano. The machinations of Litta in releasing Bellini from his existing contract, but failing to secure La Scala for his enterprise are graphically described by Stelios Galatopoulos in his Bellini, Life, Times, Music (Sanctuary 2002).

The rapid composition of I Capuletti e i Montecchi, completed in only 26 days, left the often-ailing Bellini in poor health. It was only later in 1830, after he had completed the libretto for Donizetti’s great success Anna Bolena that Romani commenced on a Bellini project. The chosen subject was Ernani, an adaptation of Victor Hugo’s sensational Hernani produced in Paris the previous February. Bellini set music for at least five scenes before it became apparent, with political unrest in France, Belgium and Poland, that the Milan police censors would not allow it. The outcome was a total change to the politically innocuous subject of La Sonnambula based on Scribe’s ballet-pantomime. The plot concerns the young and innocent Amina who is about to be married to Elvino. Amina sleepwalks and ends up in the room of the local count who has recently returned to the village incognito. Elvino finds Amina in this compromised location and denounces her. Eventually he is convinced of her innocence when he sees her sleepwalking along a very narrow plank over a dangerous mill wheel.

The change of subject meant that Bellini did not start to compose La Sonnambula until 2 January 1831 and the scheduled premiere was put back to 6 March. The opera was a resounding success with the composer’s evolving musical style being much admired. It established Bellini firmly on the international stage much as had Anna Bolena for Donizetti; two outstanding successes for the Duke of Litta and his associates. Both successes owed much to the presence of Pasta and Rubini who had created the main roles. Pasta had a most unusual voice. Stendhal in his Vie de Rossini (1824) described it as extending from as low as bottom A and rising as high as C sharp or a slightly sharpened D. It was her dramatic interpretations as much as her range from contralto to high soprano that appealed to audiences. In our own time, perhaps only Callas has shown anything near the variety of vocal colour and dramatic gifts that were Pasta’s stock in trade.

Apart from Callas’s 1957 (EMI) recording of the role, Amina has become the domain of light acrobatic voices. An early example on record was the naturally light and girlish sounding Lina Pagliughi in 1952 (Warner Fonit 8573 87475-2). These sopranos have also included Joan Sutherland on two recordings (Decca 448 966-2 and 417 424-2) and more recently Luba Orgonasova (Naxos 8.660042-43), Edita Gruberova (Nightingale) and the fluttery Eva Lind on Arts (review). Of these sopranos Orgonasova and Sutherland have the richest tone and like Gruberova are secure in the coloratura.

This recording differs from those mentioned in using a new Critical Edition by Alessandro Roccataglia and Luca Zappelli and published by Ricordi in collaboration with the Teatro Massimo Bellini in Catania. It lowers the key in several numbers compared with more traditional performing edition, particularly in Elvino’s cavatina Prendi, l’anel ti dono (CD 1 tr.8) and the duet for the two lovers Vedi o madre (CD 2 tr.4). Although longer, by some ten minutes, than the standard performing edition of the time on the Warner Fonit recording, it is also shorter than Sutherland’s second recording by a similar amount.

On this recording the French coloratura soprano Natalie Dessay is easy on the ear with her light, rather white, limpid tone. She phrases the Bellinian line with some grace and her diction is good. Her most expressive moments come at the very end in Ah! Non giunge (CD 2 tr.13) as Amina is filled with joy and where Dessay finds more tonal colour. Overall there is a greater range of colour in the lower part of her voice whilst she exhibits a slight tendency to thinning at the top in the highest tessitura. In general she is better seen on-stage as a committed singing actress rather than as a voice on a recording.

Previously the role of Elvino lay in the upper range of the light lyric, or leggiero, tenor voice. It has been suggested that Rubini, and certainly others who followed in that period and later, used a falsetto voice. Tagliavini on Warner Fonit uses head voice to the point of a croon. Like Gimenez on the Naxos and William Matteuzzi on Arts, Francesco Meli has been known as a Rossini singer. He appears in the composer’s Bianca e Falliero from Pesaro in 2005, on CD and DVD, in Torvaldo e Dorliska from the 2006 festival and also recorded on CD and DVD; both operas recorded by the Italian label Dynamic.

In a profile and interview for France’s Opéra magazine between those two years, Meli indicated his wish to move towards the lyric tenor fach. I felt this to be wise as he lacks the free top of voice required for the ideal Rossini tenor. There are a couple of occasions on this recording where that tightness shows. What he had at that time, and exhibits here, is a pleasing light tenor tone with a touch of metal. He adds to this a capacity for sensitive phrasing, good legato and willingness to use the mezza voce. All these skills, allied with a capacity for expression and characterisation, combine to bring the role to life.

As the returned incognito Count, Carlo Columbara is sonorous but not lugubrious. His well tuned bass voice is heard to good effect in the famous solo Vi ravviso (CD 1 tr.11). The minor parts are more than adequately sung, the chorus are vibrant and idiomatic and Evelino Pido brings a nice touch to both rhythmic pointing and Bellinian cantilena. The recording is clear, airy and well balanced between orchestra and soloists. 

Robert J Farr




Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing




Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Past and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.