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La Sonnambula

4.1 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Audio CD, September 25, 2007
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Product Details

  • Performer: Natalie Dessay, Francesco Meli, Carlo Colombara, Sara Mingardo, Jael Azzaretti, et al.
  • Orchestra: Orchestre & Choeurs de l'Opera de Lyon
  • Conductor: Evelino Pido
  • Composer: Vincenzo Bellini
  • Audio CD (September 25, 2007)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Erato Disques
  • ASIN: B000UZ4EO8
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #330,358 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Stanley H. Nemeth on November 17, 2007
Format: Audio CD
I approached listening to this new CD set with some trepidation, for while "La Sonnambula" is an opera of undeniably glorious melodies, these unfortunately are at the service of a frankly silly story. Further, in performance, melodies apart, the opera invariably rises or falls on the strengths of its central singer, the sleepwalker Amina, who stumbles, innocently, into strange men's bedrooms. More specifically, my worry here was over the casting of Natalie Dessay in the title role. While it's true she's a singer of remarkable coloratura gifts, some of her earlier work had convinced me she was of that school of harsh, astringent high voice only the French reportedly prefer. Her performance of "Lucia" on CD, for instance, was to my ears both overacted and undersung, manifestly short on requisite vocal beauty. Therefore, I had doubts whether she could do full justice to this taxing Bellini role which before all others rests on beautiful voice and elegant voice, along with suitably dramatic voice throughout.
Happily, my doubts turn out to have been unwarranted. Dessay here makes the role spectacularly her own, turning in one of the most remarkably sung and well-acted Aminas on record. She sings much of the role softly, emphasizing great tonal beauty and dexterity in fioriture, while sparing us any of those blood-curdling high notes which in her "Lucia" could have peeled the paint right off the walls. In my judgment, she joins the stellar company of Callas and Sutherland as a great Bellini interpreter.
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Format: Audio CD
I don't know what recording the reviewer who states that this has "no cuts" was listening to, but it couldn't have been this one. My heart sank when right from the beginning, half of Lisa's opening aria was cut; this is an outdated and nonsensical practice because it gives the singer no chance to repeat the musical theme and offer his or her personal embellishments. Likewise, in act 2 Lisa had half of her aria "Di lieti auguri" cut - if the singer gets to sing this aria, for heaven's sake, why can't she sing it in full? It's short enough, and in this case the singer wasn't even allowed the luxury of a high B flat at the end. To hear this sung as it should be, listen to Dilber on the Naxos recording - top Fs and all. Continuing on, Elvino's cabaletta was shorn of its second verse, as was the Rodolfo's. Other cuts occurred in the duetting between Amina and Elvino in Act 1. And this is supposed to be a "Critical edition"?? Give me a break. The two stars I give are for Dessay's singing as Amina; she sings quite beautifully, but also a little disappointingly in the cabalettas; "Sovra il sen" abounds with her own individual ornaments, but the whole thing sounds too carefully sung, almost as if she were sight-reading it. And the concluding "Ah! non giunge" is even more disappointing; the critical edition gives the first verse in that stark, simplified edition which Renee Fleming recorded on her Bel Canto album, with the repeat what we are used to hearing as the FIRST verse! So we get none of the fireworks and ornaments that we are used to hearing from Sutherland, Devia, Callas, Peters etc etc.Read more ›
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Format: Audio CD
This is a pleasant enough offering, but really no improvement on the competition. Ms Dessay presents a beautifully sung and quite effecting Amina. Her hushed reading of "Ah, non credea mirarti" is especially lovely. Like a previous reviewer, I don't care for the simplified vocal line in the first verse of "Ah, non giunge." The fioratura as printed in the standard edition of the Ricordi vocal score is sung only in the second verse. I've not had a chance to see the critical edition used in this recording, so this may represent Bellini's original intention. But, it just doesn't sound right to me, being accustomed to the runs in both verses of the cabaletta.

Francesco Meli has a larger, darker voice than one usually hears in the role of Elvino. His voice is pleasant and he uses it with taste and intelligence. I simply prefer to hear a sweeter voice in this part. Carlo Colombara and Jael Azzaretti are adequate as Count Rodolfo and Lisa. As pointed out elsewhere, Rodolfo loses the repeat of his first act cabaletta and Lisa loses the repeats of both her first and second act arias. These cuts aren't too surprising as the recording is taken from concert performances given in Lyon.

I give this recording only 3 stars because this opera is well represented on CD and there are better performances readily available. The recording on Naxos is half the price and twice as good as this recording. My personal favourite is Joan Sutherland's first commercial recording - her second commercial recording has little to recommend it, alas. The serious collector would not want to be without the live recording from Cologne in 1957 that captures what must have been one of Maria Callas's most spectacular evenings on stage. This set just isn't up to the competition.
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Format: Audio CD
The particulars:

Amina: Natalie Dessay
Elvino: Francesco Meli
Rodolfo: Carlo Columbara
Teresa: Sara Mingardo
Lisa: Jael Azzaretti
Alessio: Paul Gay
Un notaro: Gordon Gietz

2 CDs

Orchestra, Chorus, Opera Lyon
Evelino Pido, conductor
Recorded November 2006, "during and subsequent to the concerts at the Opéra de Lyon" (numerous takes?)

The first thing one should know about this recording: there's cuts. Lots of them. What makes this so indefensible - not only in these times of striving to restore the aims of "somewhat" correct performance practice - but the booklet notes makes much ado about this performance being based on the new so-called critical edition of the opera. Restored are some keys, and claims are made for orchestral "details" - including the restoration of the duets for trumpet prior to Elvino's aria in act 2 - well whoopteedoo - that aria in itself is CUT CUT CUT!

Poor Lisa, that tarty wench, she only gets to whine for one verse each in her 2 arias. Rodolfo loses his second verse of "Tu non sai." "Ah! vorrei trovar parole" is halved. Numerous other trims. None felicitous, in this, a comparatively short opera.

What is the logic here? I figure that with the embarking upon a critical edition, there would be as well aims to full restoration in every sense. A scholarly (in the best sense please) aim in researching ornamentation, working with the singers, and making it stylish, innovative, spontaneous, would be the ideal. It isn't realized here. Amina gets all full measures in her big scenes, but that's it. What was the decision based on? That second verses slow the opera down? That the singers don't wan't to be bothered with annoyances of decoration? They can't do it?
Read more ›
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