La Sonnambula
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La Sonnambula


In Review Juilliard Sonnambula hdl 216
The Met + Juilliard concert performance of La Sonnambula, with Sava Vemic's Rodolfo, conductor Speranza Scappucci, and Hyesang Park as Amina
© Nan Melville 2016

THE MET+JUILLIARD OFFERINGS combining the talents of the company’s Lindemann Young Artist Program with the conservatory’s Marcus Institute for Vocal Arts steadily produce worthwhile, high-quality evenings. A concert staging of La Sonnambula on February 9 provided much to enjoy, though Bellini’s endless lines and technical hurdles demand a lot from singers still studying. Speranza Scappucci’s fluid, singer-friendly conducting brought out the overture’s playfulness; the string ensemble proved impressive, and in general Scappucci kept a balance that allowed the singers to project. David Paul staged the proceedings effectively, except when he frustratingly placed Hyesang Park’s Amina behind the conductor during “Ah, non credea mirarti” and half of “Ah, non giunge.”

Hyesang Park looked and sounded genuinely lovely, approaching the great role in the old-fashioned, pre-Callas tradition of tonal purity and ethereal roulades. Her downward chromatic scales were most impressive; full-out trills somewhat less so. Some high decorations assumed a yapping quality, though she ended an altogether remarkable traversal with a rousing high F. Unaffected and gracious onstage, this soprano already exudes star quality. 

Tenor Kang Wang seemed a gifted (if still developing) vocalist miscast in the high-flying bel canto duties of Elvino.  The young Chinese–Australian artist’s promisingly pingy sound proved too freighted by tremolo to negotiate all the music’s graces. At certain moments—notably in the superbly built ensemble “D’un pensiero,” during which Elvino’s anguish should really dominate—Wang took phrases an octave down or just mouthed them noiselessly. Though he mustered some dynamic variety, phrases were inconsistently drawn, with little concern for stringing the words on sustained lines.  One hopes further work in the Lindemann program will unlock this young artist’s best qualities from his present limitations; at his strongest moments, he sounded like a potential versimo tenor.

Sava  Vemić’s fine assets introduced themselves with a bang when Count Rodolfo entered. The Serbian bass is tall and handsome, and his fine, raven-toned voice commands a magnificent resonance that makes one take notice.  Plausibly aristocratic,  Vemić was kept by his very youthfulness from seeming altogether convincing in the stirringly nostalgic outpourings of “Vi ravviso,” one of Bellini’s melodic gems. The bass did his best to keep his truly imposing instrument within the confines of bel canto line; but—as the skipping of his cabaletta’s second verse surely indicated—his future probably lies elsewhere stylistically.

  The Lisa, Clarissa Lyons, made more expressive use of the Italian language than anyone else onstage. She commands a darkly bright, penetrating sound. Like most Lisas, Lyons had trouble with the ascending leaps of “De' lieti auguri,” but she made the character a stronger vocal and dramatic counterpoint to Amina than I have ever witnessed. 

As Teresa, Amina’s foster mother, Sara Couden produced a large, theatrically useful contralto.  Thesele Kemane, the genial Alessio—virtually never a part that displays a bass to good advantage—showed musical phrasing in recitatives but was covered and inaudible when the orchestra played. Tenor Miles Mykkanen stepped from the chorus (the freshness of the voices is always one of the pleasures of attending opera here) as a luxury-cast Notary.  —David Shengold 

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