LA “SONNAMBULA” IN ATHENS

Bellini’s “Sonnambula” can be considered as his most , dramatically and musically balanced work. It has been absent from the Greek operatic scene for more than a decade, therefore it’s restitution to the repertoire, was more than welcome.
The opera was presented in a production that was shared between the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and the Vienna Opera, directed by Marco Arturo Merelli, with costumes by Dagmar Niefind. The scene was set in a five star hotel in the Alps, around the seventies I suppose, but I can not be sure. I really enjoyed the visual aspect of the production with the wide balcony windows overlooking the Alps while D.Niefind’s costumes were ergonomically constructed, with muted colors, a fact that underlined the spectacular red gown which Amina wore in the finale.
The lighting designed by the director, greatly enhanced the atmosphere of the opera.
The role of Amina was taken in turn by Greece’s two coloraturas, Christina Poulitsi and Vassiliki Karayanni.
C.Poulitsi tackled the role in a more light and playful attitude, for her Amina is a young girl, innocent, credulous, who brakes like a toy in the face of adversity. The final aria was sung more like a sad complain against the injustice she suffered, with the final end being a release of a cascade of emotions. Poulitsi’s voice was crystal clear, with beautiful round top notes which were ringing in the auditorium. Her singing had moments of pure lyricism combined with laser beam top notes. She was a remarkable Amina in all counts.
On the other end of the spectrum Vassiliki Karayanni proved once again her artistry and her inner musicianship. Her portrayal of Amina had many psychological levels, she is a girl, but she is also strong, willful and a more complicated personality than it seems at the surface. Her singing brought to out the complexity of the character, it’s subtle nuances, it’s emotional rollercoaster all expressed through the music and impeccably sung proving once again what a great singer and artist she really is. Her “ah non credea mirarti” was sung aux bout du souffle with exquisite pianissimos and a lyrical melodic line. The final cabaletta gave her the chance to display her impeccable coloratura , and her strong high notes. A memorable performance in all counts.
Elvino was sung by Yannis Christopoulos and Vassilis Kavayas. Y.Christopoulos has a more “dramatic” voice with a true heroic color. His Elvino was passionate, with strong emotions ranging from absolute anger to absolute tenderness. He is a truly remarkable singer .
Vassilis Kavayas is more in the league of a lighter voice, supple, flexible, and sung the role with great feeling and expressiveness. I really loved his portrayal of the character, as a sensitive soul, but also as having a credulous jealous personality, easily swayed by the arguments of the Count. He has a real feeling and understanding of Bellini’s music, and of the demands of belcanto.
C.Stamboglis and T.Apostolou sung the role of Count Rodolpho . C.Stamboglis is not new to the belcanto repertoire, his voice fits perfectly this type of music. He sung the role with poise and looked very impressive in his fur coat. It is always a pleasure to see him onstage.
T.Apostolou has a strong ringing voice, his portrayal of the character was impressive and looked gorgeous as the Count, no wonder Elvino was jealous of him.
The real surprise of the evening was A.Agathonos who tackled the role of Teresa. The voice was in wonderful form, she gave the role a dimension both psychologically and dramatically which I have not seen in other productions. She is apart from an accomplished singer and musician, an accomplished actress as well.
E.Marangou sung also the role of Teresa. Her voice is firm and her portrayal of the role was very good.
Both Lisas (M. Striftombola and M.Palaska) were excellent, I really enjoyed their singing of a role that is pivotal to the dramatic development of the opera. They both are in possession of a beautiful soprano voice and sung with great feeling and stamina.
G.Matheakakis and G.Papadimitriou were striking in the role of Alessio, both looking handsome onstage.
I found the Chorus rather off balance especially in the beginning, sometimes it seemed they lacked behind the orchestra.
The surprise of the evening was the musical direction of Maestro Philippe Augin who had a real feeling for the music. His tempos were exemplary, and brought out the romanticism of the music especially in the rhythmic department. A wonderful performance with the orchestra in full form.