Monday, July 15, 2013

The Plot is Thicker than Water – La Sonnambula at Staatsoper Stuttgart

Act 1
We’ve already discussed the lack of drama inherent in this opera libretto (isn’t that nicer than calling it “stupid”?) and I think that any literal stage interpretation of La Sonnambula cannot be much more than a pretty evening of singing (provided the singers are good.)

It’s interesting how the directors have changed this from a fluffy plot to something quite tragic (though with comic elements) without changing or really being untrue to the text. In some scenes and arias, Amina’s happy lyrics come out as ironic, and in the end she is totally unhinged. Her wild coloratura makes a dramatic statement, with some of her brilliant outbursts coming out more as screams* (particularly at the end of the finale. It's a scream, but it's brilliant and musical.) 

This production is about Amina (of course), Rodolpho, Teresa, and “the Phantom” who may be Amina’s birth mother and/or Amina's lost innocence. We also are led to believe that Rodolpho is Amina’s father (I thought for a while he might even be Elvino’s father, too), which would explain the bit about Rodolpho being a stranger, yet familiar with the village and the castle. Elvino is slightly less important here than maybe the librettist intended. His relationship with Amina is not as kind and loving as one might expect. Elvino is as dubious about this marriage as Amina. It seems like he has to marry her; and she feels like she'll never do any better, and maybe doesn't even deserve any better.  Lisa the innkeeper gets back some of her traditionally cut music, making her more than just a whiner.

Act 2
It’s a little disturbing to have a tragic, frozen in time, unresolved ending to the opera. Instead of, “They’re getting married, Hooray," it's as if the chorus is singing, "WTF just happened?" Amina's not singing, “I’m so happy I just gotta sing sing!” It's more like, “OMG what has happened to me. I think I might kill myself after all.” 

But when you think about it, life never really resolves either, so in a way we have finally turned this silly plot into something worth singing about. And no matter the plot, staging, scenery, etc., the singing is worth hearing!

Catriona Smith as Lisa sounded best up high, where her vibrato had less opportunity to take over. She came across well as the mean girl, who was only embarrassed about her indiscretion for a moment or two before she packed up and haughtily stomped out. Poor Motti Kastón (Alessio) got about as much respect as his character. Mostly all he could do was stand around and look frustrated. He did seem a little bit “off” and of course Lisa still held out hope for marrying Elvino’s fortune.

Enzo Capuano made a good case for Rodolpho as Amina’s dad and it’s not just that he looks a lot older. He expressed distress, concern, even love (fatherly love) for Amina. His paternal baritone was warm, though he occasionally was in a different tempo than the rest of the ensemble. (I guess it really was only one glaringly obvious place. Ironically he was downstage, but more or less had his back to the conductor.) 

Helene Schneidermann, (an all-American singer who has made her career primarily in Germany) as the too young to be a mother Teresa, was wonderful. Her very light soprano-y mezzo blended nicely in the ensembles. And she played a stern but loving Mom, more humorously in the first act as she fussed and directed, and more serious in Act 2 as she defends her daughter. And she is clearly a favorite at Stuttgart.

Luciano Botelho as Elvino has a lovely light tenorino voice that started out strong. He did seem to fade some as the evening went on. But that actually works, as his character never seems to be the focus of attention, even when he is the only one singing. And Elvino’s character becomes more questionable as the opera progresses. We wonder why he was planning to marry Amina in the first place, and when he seems to be having second and third thoughts by the end of the opera, he really comes off as…well, not very admirable.

And saving the best for last: Ana Durlovski. Her voice is both strong and agile. She easily handles both the drama and coloratura of this production, tossing off trills, scales, and arpeggios while getting dressed, getting undressed, lying down, fending off (multiple) gropers, running, crawling, and having a miscarriage. Running out of words to describe how wonderful I think she is, I will end with a quote from the London Financial Times review of the premiere performances: 
"Singing that gets ever better as the evening progresses helps us believe in the feelings of the protagonists. Ana Durlovski's Amina has both touching fragility and increasingly—poetic depth." 

Watch this on Arte LiveWeb for about 50 more days.

*I think maybe this is how Bieito made the creepiness of his Entführung work; many who saw it feel that the setting did not really betray the music. Though I still have trouble coming to complete terms with that.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are very welcome! They won't be moderated; but rude, abusive, and/or radically off-topic posts will be removed.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...