About ‘La Sonnambula’: Who is the Sleepwalker?

Bellini was noted for his mastery of the ‘Bel canto’ style … literally ‘beautiful singing’ and La Sonnambula (The Sleepwalker) shows off that skill perfectly. One after another the most beautiful tunes flow from soloists and chorus – some feisty, some plaintive and some rousing, but all glorious to listen to.

So what is ‘The Sleepwalker’ all about?

The story revolves around a love triangle in which one of the lovers blots her copybook by being found in the wrong man’s bed. Only when it is discovered that she is a sleepwalker is her innocence eventually believed!

Bellini’s two-act opera was inspired by the ballet-pantomime by Eugène Scribe called La somnambule ou L’arrivée d’un nouveau seigneur. The ballet had premiered in Paris in September 1827 at the height of a fashion for stage works incorporating somnambulism.

Bellini wrote the opera at the age of just 29 with the first performance taking place at Milan’s Teatro Carcano on 6 March 1831.

With its pastoral setting and story, La Sonnambula was a great success with performances in London and New York following soon after.

Scene from the 1899 production Act 2, Sc. 2

The challenging Sleepwalker role was to became a showcase for some of the great sopranos of all time including Jenny Lind, Maria Callas and our own patron Isobel Buchanan who sung the role of Lisa opposite Joan Sutherland as Amina on the famous recording with Pavarotti.

As convention dictates in this ‘Bel Canto’ style of Opera, all the soloists engage in vocal fireworks and the tenor gets to show off his top C’s over and over again, so vocal thrills are assured.

But – as you might expect from Bath Opera – this production is a little bit different. This updated and witty realisation of the story moves the action to a modern-day retirement home which gives the director lots of scope for comic antics, as misunderstandings, mistaken identities and confusion reign in the best tradition of farce.

LA SONNAMBULA (The Sleepwalker)
21 – 23 February 2019, 7:30pm
Roper Theatre, Upper Oldfield Park, Bath BA2 3LA

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