[Met Performance] CID:110790
New production
La Sonnambula {21} Metropolitan Opera House: 03/16/1932.


Metropolitan Opera House
March 16, 1932
New production

Bellini-F. Romani

Amina...................Lily Pons
Elvino..................Beniamino Gigli
Rodolfo.................Ezio Pinza
Lisa....................Aida Doninelli
Teresa..................Ina Bourskaya
Alessio.................Louis D'Angelo
Notary..................Giordano Paltrinieri

Conductor...............Tullio Serafin

Director................Alexander Sanine
Set designer............Joseph Urban

La Sonnambula received three performances this season.

Review in The New York Times signed H. H.


Bellini Opera, With its Rare Melodic Graces, Re-Staged at Metropolitan


Soprano Shares Honors With Gigli In Century-Old Work - Form Remains Old-Fashioned

"La. Sonnambula," after a sixteen-year repose, unbroken even by dreams, to say nothing of sleep-walking, came back to the Metropolitan last night. The work, presented for the first time a year and a century ago in Milan, has appeared from time to time in New York since its premiere here in 1883, with Marcella Sembrich and Italo Campanin in the leading roles.

To hear this opera again is to have brought home to one with renewed force how pellucid and rare was Bellini's genius. The form in which it was cast seems old fashioned to us now; the set pieces for chorus and principals and all the stage conventions that announce entrance or exit make us smile. Yet behind them the music unfolds one faultless melody after another, always appropriate in warmth or pathos or tenderness to the emotion of the text, yet never violating the shape of formal musical speech, the "closed form" to which an eminent Italian composer recently said Italian opera was returning.

Miss Pons, a slight and lovely figure, gave charming visual grace to the role of Amina, and her singing was sometimes exquisitely pure and true, tracing Benin's lyric patterns with the utmost fidelity, particularly in the unaccompanied recitative of the forest scene and in parts of the beautiful and moving duet, "D'un pensiero," which closes the second act. The sleep-walking scene also was projected admirably, and the apparent ease and artlessness with which the singer delivered most of the coloratura passages made them seem, as they should always seem, merely the half-extemporized expression of musical thought.

Gigli as a Rotund Lover

Mr. Gigli's stage business as the harassed and rotund lover was convincing in its agitato, and when he contented himself with piano singing, or with his brilliant top tones struck square in the middle of the note, he shone vocally. But unfortunately he wandered woefully from pitch far too often and in his dramatic zeal deformed time and again Bellini's lovely melodic curves with sforzandi delivered upon each syllable.

Mr. Pinza personified with dignity and ease of manner Count Rodolfo, and his fine "'Vi Ravviso" aria rolled forth with sonority and finish. The ease and vocal polish brought to her role by Miss Doninelli did not compensate for her repeated deviations from the key. Mr. D'Angelo's small role, on the other hand, was admirably done, and one must speak particularly of Miss Bourskaya's splendid performance as Teresa - her voice's rich quality, her fidelity to pitch and, above all, to Bellini' lyric style.

Faultless Choral Writing

This brings up the production as a whole. The chief chorus numbers softly sung, realized sensitively the faultless choral writing, and the production was visually acceptable, with a delicate acknowledgment of St. Patrick's Day in the green in the costuming of the protagonists. But much of the suppleness of Bellini's score, which should flow as effortlessly as water, was lost. One felt the presence of joints. There were breaks in the orchestral continuity not in the score, and the "D'un pensiero" ensemble was deprived of its mounting lyric smoothness by over-dramatization. Moreover, Bellini was made to suffer elsewhere when the simple and moving line of the second aria in the last act was lost in an excessive coloratura adornment of Miss Pons's version.

These facts, however, did not prevent a capacity audience with rows of standees five deep from applauding the principals vociferously, nor musicians from rejoicing in the chance to hear again the clear and lovely echoes of Bellini's world.

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