On Wednesday of this week it was time for opera number five of the 2011/12 season: Bellini's La sonnambula . I had pretty low expectations for this performance after reading some pretty damning reviews. In fact I almost didn't go at all! the would have been a BIG mistake. I was really pleasantly surprised by this opera and enjoyed it very much! For starters it was nice to get back to some proper Italian opera after my slightly painful encounter with Wagner. Also I thought the story was really endearing and uplifting, just right for a dismal mid November evening.
La sonnambula tells the story of a sleepwalking woman, who on the eve of her wedding sleep walks into another man's bedroom. Need I say that this leads to something of a disaster?? The main character and sleepwalker, Amina, is then set up by Lisa who is apparently after her husband. after planting some compromising evidence, she summons Amina's husband to be who goes a bit mental at the sight of her in another man's room. So ensues a race against time to prove Alvina's innocence before her fiancée runs off and marries the nasty Lisa. All works out well in the end and everyone lives happily ever after..well I'm sure Lisa is left a bit miffed, but everyone else seemed happy! It's a sweet and pretty innocent story with some good music to compliment it. I found it quite endearing that the other characters believe Alvina to be a ghost and not a sleepwalker (La sonnambula means the sleepwalker I believe) - that coupled with the light hearted love story made for a lovely evening at the opera. The Guardian didn't seem to agree with me on this point. As well as the official review, they seemed to feel the need to send someone else along to the opera on another evening and then have them interview a medical professional on sleepwalking:
This article narked me a little bit. La sonnambula premièred in 1831. Whilst the article does acknowledge that Bellini's views on sleepwalking were very much of the time, it seems to feel the need to go further and dissect the entire story. I'm not sure what the point of this was. It's a work of fiction for starters, just a simple story, and it was written in the early 19th Century! If we were to take this psychoanalytical approach to all historical works it'd take up a hell of a lot of print.
One thing I will say about this production though, is the staging. The original story is set in an Alpine village, whereas this production is apparently set in a Swiss sanatorium. To me it looked a lot more like a flashy Swiss Alpine retreate. I know Switzerland is a pretty dapper place, but I'm sure their sanatoriums of days gone by didn't feature long dining tables with silver cutlery and a fully stocked bar. No, this looked a lot more like a five star hotel for Swiss bankers than a sanatorium. It made some aspects of the opera not translate terribly well. In the original story, as i mentioned earlier, Amina awakes in the bedroom of another man. In this production she just wakes up under a fur coat on the floor of the dinning hall. A bit weird really, but anyway.
Finally, I can't sign off this review without mentioning that I was keeping some very Royal company at the Royal Opera House on Wednesday! From my £6 Upper Slips seat I could see directly into the Royal Box and who should have been is residence there on Wednesday?? None other than Prince Charles, Camilla Parker Bowles and Kate Middleton! Very exciting!
Anyway, that's it for this year! Five very different outings since September and plenty more to come as the season continues into 2012. Next adventure is a return to Wagner, with a 5hr 30min marathon on New Year's Day. Excited? Intrigued is probably a better word.
Seat: AA31, Upper Slips;
NEXT OPERA: Die Meistersinger von Nurnburg, 1st January 2012.