La sonnambula – Opera in two acts to a libretto by Felice Romani [Sung in Italian and performed in the Critical Edition by Alessandro Roccatagliati & Luca Zoppelli]
Amina – Natalie Dessay
Elvino – Francesco Meli
Rodolfo – Carlo Colombara
Lisa – Jaël Azzaretti
Teresa – Sara Mingardo
Alessio – Paul Gay
A notary – Gordon Gietz
Orchestre & Choeurs de l’Opéra de Lyon
Recorded November 2006 “during and subsequent to the concerts at the Opéra National de Lyon”
Reviewed by: John Trevor
Reviewed: December 2007
CD No: VIRGIN CLASSICS
3 95138 2 (2 CDs)
Duration: 2 hours 10 minutes
The young woman thought to be unfaithful to her fiancé is discovered to be innocent: nothing more than a sleep-walker. It is not the most gripping of plots but does provide the background for envy, for lack of trust and for a long-delayed homecoming, and, of course, for some splendid Bellinian melodies.
This version of “La sonnambula” follows a new edition, with the tenor aria ‘Prendi L’anel ti dono’, for one, returned to its original lower pitch. Evelino Pidò, experienced in bel canto opera, combines the grace and vivacity of the music, as demonstrated in Amina’s contrasting arias at the close. The fine recording creates a good balance between singers and orchestra.
To present the celebrated mezzo Sara Mingardo in the secondary role of Teresa, Amina’s mother, is casting from strength indeed. The lesser known Jaël Azzaretti brings to the envious Lisa the necessary vocal agility. As Count Rodolfo, returning after many years, Carlo Colombara brings warm tone and sings ‘Vi ravviso’ with a smoothness that is obligatory in Bellini’s cantilena.
Elvino, Amina’s betrothed, who misjudges her (hardly the basis for a trusting relationship or happy marriage), is sung by up-and-coming Francesco Meli. Whether wooing Amina or accusing her, Meli finds the relevant approach: sweet, soft-voiced endearments on the one hand; aggrieved outbursts on the other.
Pride of place must go to Amina. It would be hard to rescue a performance if the role was poorly sung. No misgivings arise here, with Natalie Dessay in splendid form. No, she does not rival Sutherland’s big, warm tone or Callas’s wide-ranging palette of colours but she has the technical expertise to cover all aspects of the part. Whether expressing Amina’s innocence or voicing her joy in love, Dessay gives a winning performance, especially in the long spans of ‘Ah! non credea’, one of Bellini’s most exquisite melodies, and in the florid divisions of Ah! non giunge’.
Thus we have fine soloists, well drilled chorus, an orchestra playing with skill and feeling and a conductor who understands the idiom, all in excellent sound. This is a recording that is highly recommended.