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Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835) La sonnambula
Giovanni Battista Parodi (bass) - Il conte Rodolfo; Julie Mellor (mezzo) - Teresa; Jessica Pratt (soprano) - Amina; Shalva Mukeria (tenor) - Elvino; Anna Viola (soprano) - Lisa; Dario Ciotoli (baritone) - Alessio; Raffaele Pastore (tenor) - A notary
Coro e Orchestra del Teatro La Fenice, Venice/Gabriele Ferro
Stage Director: Bepi Morassi; Set Designer: Massimo Checchetto; Costume Designer: Carlos Tieppo; Lighting Designer: Vilmo Furian
rec. live, Teatro la Fenice, April 2012
Video Director: Tiziano Mancini
Picture Format NTSC 16:9; Sound Formats: PGM Stereo, DTS 5.1; Subtitles: Italian (original language), English, German, French, Spanish, Chinese; Korean
Region code: 0 C MAJOR 713908 [132:00]
La sonnambula was Bellini’s eighth opera and it was premiered at Teatro Carcano in Milan on 6 March 1831. For the two leading roles he had the best singers in Italy at the time, mezzo-soprano Giuditta Pasta and tenor Giovanni Battista Rubini. Count Rodolfo was also sung by a great star at the time, Luciano Mariani. Maria Malibran sang Amina and a generation later Jenny Lind took on the role. During the last century the most famous exponents have been Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland. Lately Natalie Dessay has taken part in several productions. Here we meet the Australian soprano Jessica Pratt, who during the last few years has conquered many of the European stages.
Nobody will miss the fact that we are in Switzerland when the curtain rises. We see the snow-covered Alps in the background and a Swiss flag. Time seems to be the 1940s, which is confirmed when in act II a big red tourist coach with skiers is placed centre-stage. Maybe a reference to the Winter Olympics 1948 which were held in St. Moritz. But Gosh, what costumes. Poor Elvino in knickers and slipover is certainly the un-sexiest lover ever. I must admit though, that Amina in the sleepwalking scene is wonderfully Madonna-like in purest white.
The singing is variable. Neither Lisa nor Teresa is very enticing, though they act well. Giovanni Battista Parodi’s Rodolfo is scenically imposing and he is expressive in his singing - though a bit gravelly. The Georgian tenor Shalva Mukeria is a rather mediocre actor but he has a fine voice. He hits the top notes effortlessly and sings with a good deal of nuance.
The star of the performance is however Jessica Pratt. Sweet as meringue she masters all the technical pitfalls and the concluding Ah! Non giunge is gloriously sung. About eight years ago I reviewed another DVD of this opera with Eva Mei in the title role. It is quite different, depicted as Amina’s dream, but has the superb José Bros as Elvino. It is my preferred version but the present set is valuable for the marvellous singing of Jessica Pratt.