Vincenzo Bellini's opera semiseria La Sonnambula has a story that's a little more Scooby-Doo than most, and a reputation for being hellishly difficult for sopranos. And according to the first week's reviews, the Metropolitan Opera's current production weakens the weak story but features some amazing performances from soprano Natalie Dessay and tenor Juan Diego Flórez. The original plot, about a little Swiss village where the soon-to-be-wed Amina (Dessay) and Elvino (Flórez) live, has been updated by Mary Zimmerman to a modern-day New York City loft where an opera company is rehearsing a production of La sonnambula. The company's leads, conveniently named Amina and Elvino, are also betrothed, and Elvino is still unaware that Amina is a sleepwalker. Her nocturnal strolls cause problems when Elvino finds her asleep in the company of a handsome stranger. Suddenly the marriage is off, Amina has no idea why, and now she has to fight for the man she loves. It's a bit silly, and a little more illogical in a modern setting — a one-room modern setting, no less — but you can't deny the beauty of Bellini's bel canto score. And even the critics seem to agree that Amina's ultimate sleepwalk is something to behold. The Met HD broadcast of La Sonnambula screens in the Saint Louis Art Museum auditorium (314-534-1111 or www.slam.org) at noon today. Tickets are $15 to $22.
Sun., March 22, 2009