Buxton Opera Festival 2023: La Sonnambula by Vincenzo Bellini

La SonnambulaLa Sonnambula
La Sonnambula
La Sonnambula is a tale of love thwarted by misunderstanding. A proud fiancé believes he has been betrayed by his beloved who sleepwalks and is discovered and woken in another man’s bed, though the other man is absent.

The music is beautiful: the high point of bel canto opera, and this production is musically great. A range of human emotions are stunningly portrayed in this demanding music. Ziyi Dai’s soaring, accomplished soprano ably fills the leading role of Amina. She is matched by Nico Darmanin’s towering tenor in the outraged masculinity of her fiancé, Elvino. The other soloists all fill their parts with wide musical and acting skills. The chorus of nosy neighbours are of the high standard we have come to expect at this Festival.

Some strange decisions were taken with this production. I do not know why the decision was taken to move this beautiful music from its original Arcadian setting to a drab 1960s factory canteen. Not do I understand the decision to make the ending more modern; so the heroine, after proclaiming her undying love for her unworthy fiancé, just walks away with her rival. This happens just when the music rises to a climax of unity towards the wedding! But it is easy to overlook these strange attempts at modernisation in sheer enjoyment of the music.

This was an evening of wonderful music sung by talented performers and musicians who rose to its every challenge.