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Melodramma in two acts
Libretto by Felice Romani after Eugène Scribe's libretto for Jean-Pierre Aumer's ballet pantomime La Somnambule ou L’Arrivée d’un nouveau seigneur (1827)
First performed March 6 1831 Teatro Carcano, Milan
(premiere of this production: November 30 2014)
Sung in Italian with German surtitles
ca. 2 hours 45 minutes, including 1 interval
an introductory talk, in German, begins in the upstairs foyer 30 minutes before every performance
Belcanto was a golden age in Italian opera from in the early to mid-19th century, and La Sonnambula, with its great choral scenes, its one of the major works; an opera semiseria by Vincenzo Bellini, a new orientation in post-Rossini Italian opera. La Sonnambula tells the story of a sleep walking orphan Amina, Elvino's intended bride, who appears one night in the bedroom of the mysterious stranger Rodolfo, incurring the mistrust and displeasure of the Swiss mountain villagers. Everyone on the pitching floor of Herbert Murauer's set wear costumes by Stefan Hageneier which make us feel the cold of the mountains. Tina Lanik's production centres on the fears which lie dormant in the characters; Amina's confrontation with her own uncertainty triggers off a process of realization that allows her to grow.
The whole village is thrilled about Elvino and the young orphan Amina's imminent wedding. Only Lisa, Elvino's former lover, stands aside, resentful and giving good hearted Alessio's attentions the cold shoulder. Amid all the excitement Amina seeks our her step-mother Teresa, with whom she guards the secret of her sleepwalking. The betrothal must take place. The notary has come. Elvino arrives late, explaining that he had been praying at his mother's grave for his union with Amina to be blessed. When the notary asks what the bridal pair will bring to the marriage Elvino says: „My farm, my house, my name, all that I possess. Amina has „only her heart“ to give. He puts his mother's ring on her finger. During the celebrations a stranger appears: looking like a distinguished town-dweller. Rodolfo immediately arouses everyone's curiosity. He makes hints about the return of the dead Count's son, long believed to have vanished without trace. From the first moment on he and Amina share a mutual fascination, a kind of unspoken understanding. Dusk: The villagers become uneasy and – egged on by Teresa, because this „explanation“ is always very useful – tell Rodolfo that a ghost can often be seen walking about at night. Rodolfo can only laugh at such superstitiousness. He wishes everyone good night and takes up Lisa's offer of a room in her hotel. Amina, in the meantime, has managed to calm jealous Elvino down. When, later in the evening, Lisa checks to see if her guest needs anything, they start getting to know one another better. A sound disturbs them; Amina appears in her nightgown, sleepwalking. Lisa flees Rodolfo's embrace and room. In her haste she forgets her scarf. Asleep, Amina talks of her beloved Elvino, feeling her way her hands find „only“ Rodolfo, who, after initial confusion, she comes closer to, and then retreats from. Word has got around that Rodolfo is the dead Count's missing son and have come to see him, so when Amina awakes she finds herself surrounded by nosy villagers. The situation in Rodolfo's room seems clear. Elvino, who does not want to believe his eyes, breaks off their engagement. In the general confusion and renouncement of Amina, Teresa finds Lisa's scarf. Act II The tables have turned. The villagers want the new Count to testify to Amina's faithfulness to Elvino and ask him to explain the situation. Amina cannot convince Elvino of her innocence. In despair, he pulls the ring off her finger. Once again the story takes an unexpected turn; the villagers announce: „Lisa is the bride.“ Elvino has now decided to lead his former love to the altar. On the way to the church Elvino meets Rodolfo, who vouches for Amina's fidelity. He explains the phenomenon of sleepwalking. Nobody believes him. Then Teresa, with the scarf as evidence, disproves what Lisa maintains, that she, unlike Amina, has never been alone at night in a strange man's room. Elvino doesn't know any more who to believe or trust. Now it is Lisa who is the outcast. Amina appears, walking in her sleep again, dangerously high above the ground. She speaks of Elvino, of her deep love for him and the pain she feels at the loss of his love. Elvino is convinced. He wants to give the ring back to her. The whole village rejoices about the „happy end“ to the love story of Elvino and Amina.