I came to Vienna to watch La sonnambula because Juan Diego Flórez singing belcanto is becoming a rare sight these days, and I don’t want to miss it. Also, Luca Pisaroni was debuting the role of Conte Rodolfo, so more than one reason to come! Vienna was freezing cold, -10 and snowing, but really beautiful as always.
The production, by Marelli, has been around for a while, landing also in Barcellona, and it is very stupid. The story is set in a modern hotel in the Swiss Alps, from the costumes the time cannot be much earlier than the 60s, which makes it completely unbelievable that these people have never heard of somnambulism. Also, the scene never changes, it is always in the restaurant of the hotel, so that’s where Amina falls asleep, and not in the Count’s bedroom, which makes Elvino’s rage completely absurd. Nothing new, a completely insane production like many others, and, to be honest, it was not too intrusive, but I am getting less and less tolerant of this nonsense, honestly.
Juan Diego Flórez is more and more elegant and musical as time goes on, he truly understands bel canto and his delivery is always amazing. Flawless legato, extreme precision, fantastic high notes, the only fault that I can find is that he had squeaky shoes, which at times were very annoying. He did not sing the high D in the second act aria, which makes me think he does not have a reliable high D anymore (his high D in Don Pasquale last year here in Vienna was already very strained). This is sad, but time passes for everybody, his voice is still absolutely fantastic and his elegance and style are above and beyond.
Luca Pisaroni was at his debut as Count Rodolfo. The role is honestly not too challenging, and he went through it with ease and panache. His voice is extremely well suited to Italian bel canto: he has great support, he sings on the breath, and he understands this kind of music, obviously. His performance was really enjoyable. He also entered the stage in a very glamorous fur coat, like:
Amina was Daniela Fally, at her debut in this role as well. She is very precise in both tune and tempo, and she produces reliable super-high notes. Her voice does not provide much variety, unfortunately, and her performance results a bit boring. I am not sure exactly what it is, she’s just not that exciting to listen to. She does have a very good mezza voce, and a solid legato.
Lisa was sung by Maria Nazarova; her second act aria was NOT cut, as usual, but instead she had a chance to show her coloratura capabilities, which are not bad at all.
Rosie Aldridge gave a very good performance as Amina’s mother, with very good acting skills, and great presence in the concertato of the second act.
The biggest disappointment, musically, was the chorus, which was constantly out of synch with the orchestra, and everybody else. It’s hard to tell whose fault it was; certainly such a big stage, with the members of the chorus scattered all over the place, did not help. But it was very painful to hear: they were always either rushing or lagging behind, and the chorus has a big part in Sonnambula! Their excerpt at the very beginning of the second act “Qui la selva è più folta ed ombrosa” was cut entirely, which was a big disappointment for me, as this is one of my favorite choruses of the whole opera (here is the wonderful version by the chorus in Florence, Coro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino):
I am afraid that the only reason for cutting it was that it didn’t fit the idiotic setting and the direction. Of course, the music gets cut if it doesn’t fit the director’s insane ideas. Silly me.
The orchestra was conducted by Guillermo García Calvo, and, I have to say, their performance was less remarkable than in other occasions. I heard some uncertainties in the violins, and, in general, there was a feeling of instability, of sloppiness, which I had never had before in Vienna
All these faults of the performance, together with Juan Diego Flórez getting the words wrong at a certain point (first time EVER that I hear him do that) makes me suspicious that maybe the opera was not rehearsed enough, and this performance, with only 3 runs, was thrown together without proper care. I was very happy to hear Flórez and Pisaroni, and I did cheer and applaud them with great enthusiasm, but I was not completely satisfied in the end.