[Met Performance] CID:193320
New production
La Sonnambula {29} Metropolitan Opera House: 02/21/1963.


Metropolitan Opera House
February 21, 1963

Benefit sponsored by the Metropolitan Opera Guild
for the Welfare Fund and the Guild's Education Program
New production

Bellini-F. Romani

Amina...................Joan Sutherland
Elvino..................Nicolai Gedda
Rodolfo.................Giorgio Tozzi
Lisa....................Jeanette Scovotti
Teresa..................Lili Chookasian
Alessio.................John Macurdy
Notary..................Andrea Velis

Conductor...............Silvio Varviso

Director................Henry Butler
Designer................Rolf Gérard
Choreographer...........Mattlyn Gavers

La Sonnambula received ten performances this season.

Production a gift of Mrs. Izaak Walton Killam of Montreal, Canada

Review of Everett Helm in the March 1, 1963 issue of Musical America

On Feb. 21, the Metropolitan Opera mixed one of those cocktails for which it is famous: the base was the prima donna assoluta Joan Sutherland, the Australian soprano who has risen to international stardom in the course of a few years. This basic ingredient was garnished with an excellent cast, none of whom, however, interfered with the main attraction. A dash of music was added-by a composer named Bellini, long since deceased. And the whole was served in a suitably old-fashioned setting, with suitably conventional costumes and scenery, and illuminated by that kind of grizzly lighting that is usual at the Met.

It was a gala audience that witnessed this benefit performance of "La Sonnambula"- "The Sleep Walker"-by Vincenzo Bellini. The production is new. "La Sonnambula" has not been given at the Met for nearly 30 years-since the '34-'35 season, when the leading soprano role of Amina was sung by Lily Pons. The Met repertoire, which could do with some strengthening, is not much richer for this new addition. Musically, "Sonnambula" is a rather flimsy affair, although it does have its moments. It is a dramatically weak opera on two counts: first of all because of its inane story and secondly, because of its unexciting score, which is melodious and lyrical hut which is primarily a "vehicle" for the singers rather than a substantial musical work in itself.

If this opera was a success - and in its extrovert way, it was -
it is only because the singing was of high quality. We can assume that the sold-out house came to hear Sutherland and not because they were anticipating a moving musical experience. Well, they got their money's worth-she was in excellent form. Her coloratura was flexible and brilliant, her high notes superb. We counted at least three high E-flats. And there were more fiorature and high notes than even the score called for. Miss Sutherland took the very legitimate liberty of "doctoring" her part to increase its brilliance. Her acting was far from convincing. But then, who-except Maria Callas-can make this ridiculous part credible?

Although Miss Sutherland was the unequivocal center of interest-even the raison d'être of this performance-it was by no means a one man (or one woman) show. Besides the star part of the sleepwalking Amina, there are two important male roles. Elvino was Nicolai Gedda, who contributed his share of high notes and-more important - beautifully phrased bel canto melodies.

Following in the footsteps of Ezio Pinza as Rodolfo, Giorgio Tozzi was outstanding for his vocalism, acting and musicianship. Lili Chookasian, Jeanette Scovotti, John Macurdy and Andrea Velis were excellent in supporting roles.

Conductor Silvio Varviso held things together admirably and kept them moving. Rolf Gerard's sets and costumes were pleasant enough in their conventional way, and Henry Butler's stage direction followed traditional patterns. The choreography of the occasional dance scenes was primitive and clumsy. In short, it was an evening to please that special kind of opera buff who is more interested in singing and singers than in what is being sung. For those who require music with their singing-or who expect opera to be dramatically plausible -- "La Sonnambula" will have only moderate appeal.

Photograph of a scene from La Sonnambula with Nicolai Gedda as Elvino and Joan Sutherland as Amina by Louis Mélançon/Metropolitan Opera.

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