acrobats helping with changes to sets and costumes—the audience was invited to watch what was going on. The costumes, especially for Lulu, were spectacular. An almost constant presence was Gustave Courbet’s famously explicit painting L’Origine du Monde; this was the ‘portrait’ of Lulu.
The American soprano Lauren Snouffer made a great impression in her role debut as Lulu. Young, beautiful, and singing with a strong lyric soprano, she gave a complex portrayal of the character, and it was impossible not to feel sympathy for her. Dr Schön and Jack the Ripper brought a competent performance of some roughness from Stefan Heidemann. Michaela Selinger was too self-contained as Countess Geschwitz, but Benjamin Bruns excelled as Alwa, as did Jens Larsen as Schigolch. Also worthy of mention were Rebecca Jo Loeb as the Student, Robin Yujoong Kim as the Painter and Hernan Iturralde as the Animal Tamer and Athlete. There were very good performances from the Chilean singers Evelyn Ramírez, Arturo Espinosa, Gonzalo Araya, Francisco Salgado, Jaime Mondaca, Cecilia Barrientos, Carolina Grammelstorff and Javier Weibel.
The Orquesta Filarmonica was conducted by Pedro-Pablo Prudencio, who was called in as an emergency replacement when Juan Pablo Izquierdo had to step down due to illness. Prudencio’s work was impeccable, and it allowed the audience to be surprised in a very positive way by this strange, controversial and difficult masterpiece. matias pérez
China Beijing Compared with Pier’Alli’s 2014 production of Norma at the national centre for the performing arts, which frequently rode roughshod over both the singers and the score, Gilbert Deflo’s new production of La sonnambula—the second Bellini opera that the NCPA has introduced to Chinese audiences—functioned on a pleasantly human scale. Much of that modesty resulted from a change in venue from the Centre’s 2,400-seat opera house to the 1,000-seat drama theatre, and where Norma used high-tech bells and whistles to elevate what is essentially a domestic love triangle to near-mythic status, Sonnambula was presented with almost Calvinist simplicity.
The cast on opening night on August 28 consisted mostly of Chinese singers (both emerging names and veterans of European houses), followed the next night by a predominantly European cast. Bellini demands of his sleepwalker Amina a certain heft in the low register and a good deal of flexibility on top. The Xinjiang-born Uyghur soprano Dilbèr Yunus—a longtime company member of the Finnish National Opera performing under the stage name Dilbèr—summoned a bit of both, but negotiating between the two presented some grating transitions. Nor did she get much help from Antonino Siragusa as her jealous suitor Elvino, who had both suppleness in his middle range and power at the top, but whose rough edges surfaced just when the music called for vocal gloss. Better showings by far came from the baritone Zhang Wenwei’s Rodolfo, the mezzo-soprano Yang Yanting’s Teresa and the soprano Li Xintong’s Lisa (the latter an NCPA resident artist and a name to remember).
The next night, Anton Rositskiy was a more consistent Elvino and Mirco Palazzi an equally respectable Rodolfo, but it was Rosa Feola’s Amina that sprinkled magic on the proceedings. Granted, it took some time—while Rositskiy and Palazzi seemed evenly matched from the start, Feola was more of a slow burn—but in her Sleepwalking Scene, her vocal nuance tugged quietly but intensely at the ear.
Opera, December 2018