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Subject: so sorry it took so lonk for SONNAMBULA report--my side of the story, the sad and superb-from in the house last Sat. matinee (same as HDcast)
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Date:Sun, 29 Mar 2009 22:14:04 +0000
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Hiya folks from Hershey, PA. where we are spending part of our son Samuel's spring break.... 

I tried to formulate this write-up several times and have been thwarted by my brain, my computer and everything else...so I hope I can get through this now. 

I was actually IN THE HOUSE last Saturday March 21st for the matinee of the Met's new SONNAMBULA that many of you saw on HD In the theaters. 

My first thought upon entering the theater (as it was the night before at Trovatore) was another huge amount of money spent on a show curtain. This time a horizontal altitudinal map of the Alps. It was oddly reminiscent of the FILLE maps from last year's production, save for the double steel pushbar doors in the center leading into the "rehearsal hall" behind.  When the opera started and only one person used the door I thought, why didn't the conductor come out this way and head into the pit; that would have made it so much more of a real rehearsal. 

Anyway, for what it's worth, DANIEL OSTLING's set is truly brilliant, each small detail executed to perfection from EXIT signs to sprinkler heads, piping, tubing and even electrical outlets. The "lower Manhattan" two-story studio with an office at the top of a small steel stairway at the rear and the NY buildings across the street visible through the tall paned glass windows at the rear was superb. I sincerely hope that this set can be recycled into something useful in the future; isn't there a Broadway play called "The Rehearsal" that maybe could be staged with this? 

The chorus are dressed in what I assume to be their own clothes, or did costume designer MARA BLUMENFELD actually design each costume at great expense?--another waste. I did wonder why there were not enough chairs for the chorus to sit through their rehearsal; many of them were often sitting on the floor which surely would have been uncomfortable for hours on end (the clock at the rear actually moved throughout the entire day, night and next day during the opera). 



I have no problem with NATALIE DESSAY's Amina entering on her cell phone in a long white coat, beret and sunglasses. Even the costume fitting idea for her "Come per me sereno" MIGHT have been appropriate, BUT here is where I get upset. She was so busy with all the shenanigans of the wigs being rolled in during the cabaletta (hey why didn't they have the Met's uber-makeup man Victor Calegari onstage as well?!) that it took away from the music itself. In the Met program that day there is a quote from Ms. Dessay: "You can't cheat with Bellini. In Donizetti, you can act...but in Bellini there's nothing but the music and the purity of the line..." If this is the case, why is this beautiful music with such purity covered with hammy antics? 



We were so lucky to have the antithesis with JUAN DIEGO FLOREZ' Elvino who acted superbly and sang with great perfection from start to finish. His lack of overdose in the "Prendi l'anel ti dono" and the fact that the singers sang the music without trying to create a "scene" gave us indeed a PERFECT SCENE and a blissful duet. 



Now to our director MARY ZIMMERMAN, whom I have always thought a great theatrical director on Broadway and in Washington as well. This is her second opera outing at the Met and somehow she never came through. I (and in talking with many others) think that she had a basically good idea to start with, but got lost along the way. Her personal note in the program explains what is going on with the rehearsal concept and she defines each character, except the Count. I thought MICHELE PERTUSI gave a great performance vocally and all I could think was that he was the producer or something, but there was no such implication in that direction; he was left totally UNDEFINED by Ms. Zimmerman. And why would he wander into the rehearsal hall in the middle of the night? Oh, one could go on for hours about the illogical moves of the entire concept. 

Indeed, can we suspend reality to believe that Amina sleepwalked through Manhattan, down the aisle at the Met (which yes, was quite impressive) into the rehearsal hall with no key at midnight? And oddly during this entire scene, the lights in the buildings across the street kept going on and off all the time; what was that all about? Not finally, but also, why did the chorus return to rehearsal at 7am; no union would allow this! 



There were no laughs for the final scene where the chorus wrecks everything for no reason at all; it might have been funny in a Rossini comedy act finale, but not here. I can't remember who said it, but I love the idea that the reason this occurs is that Ms. Zimmerman hated the opera so much she had the chorus tear up the scores! It was true directorial TRASH indeed. 



The second act had much of the same as the first with great, no SUPERBLY BLISSLFUL singing from Mr. Florez, and lots of unconnected nonsense from the rest of the cast. There was nice support in the small roles from Jeremy Galyon as Alessio (I think he was supposed to be the chorus master), JAne Bunnel as Teresa and Jennifer Black as Lisa, the stage director (although she had some iffy moments in her one aria). 



Bellini's great finale was again with the soprano treat "Ah non credea mirarti" and the final sleepwalk scene is a truly impressive operatic finale. Here it was ABUSED beyond belief. Amina enters in the snow sleepwalking on the ledge outside the building (how did she get there?) and then is treated to a backup chorus finale now all dressed in Swiss folk clothes...a combination of lame choreography (Daniel Pelzig had succeeded in Act I, but failed here) and everyone running around like chickens with their heads cut off totally destroyed what might have been saved, but Ms. Zimmerman seems to have been running on empty(or on drugs) by this point. 

Need I say more? 
ALAN SAVADA of Washington, DC 

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