Nice Opera opens the 2022-23 opera season with Vincenzo Bellini’s La Sonnambula, directed by one of today’s leading tenors, Rolando Villazón, and Jean-Michel Criqui.

This new staging of La Sonnambula is a co-production between the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, Semperoper Dresden, Opéra Nice Côte d’Azur and New York’s Metropolitan Opera.

This production by Nice Opera stars Spanish soprano Sara Blanch as Amina, the sleepwalker of the title. Ms Blanch has performed in many of Europe’s major opera houses, such as Gran Teatro del Liceu in Barcelona, Madrid’s Teatro Real, the Teatro Regio in Turin, as well as in festivals such as the Festival de Salzburg, the Donizetti Opera Festival in Bergamo and Musiques en Fête at the Théâtre Antique d’Orange in France.

As Elvino – whom Amina is to marry – is Uruguayan tenor Edgardo Rocha, highly regarded for his repertoire in bel canto of which he is considered to be an important exponent. Romanian bass Adrian Sâmpetrean is Rodolfo in whose room Amina is found to be sleeping. He has appeared with numerous opera companies, including Opéra de Monte Carlo, the Bavarian State Opera Munich, the Bolshoi Theatre, Teatro alla Scala, Opéra de Paris and Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Also in the cast are Italian soprano and bel canto specialist Cristina Giannelli as Lisa, who was once engaged to Elvino, French baritone Timothée Varon as Alessio, who is in love with Lisa, and Italian mezzo-soprano Annunziata Vestri as Teresa who brought up Amina when she was orphaned.

Bellini’s La Sonnambula was inspired by an 1819 vaudeville show by French playwrights Eugène Scribe and Casimir Delavigne, which was adapted into a ballet, choreographed for the Paris Opera by Jean-Pierre Aumer, with the title La somnambule, ou L’arrivée d’un nouveau seigneur (The Sleepwalker, or The Arrival of a New Lord). It premiered at the Teatro Carcano de Milan on 6th March, 1831

La Sonnambula is a two-act opera semiseria in the bel canto tradition – semiseria being an Italian genre of opera, popular in the early and middle 19th century, which contains elements of comedy but also of pathos, sometimes with a pastoral setting. With a libretto by Felice Romani, La Sonnambula was created under a degree of pressure in terms of time. Bellini had had to cancel the planned scoring of Romani’s libretto for Ernani in November 1830 (for reasons of censorship), Romani was a busy author – working simultaneously for Donizetti and Rossini – and Bellini had less than two months until the planned premiere of La Sonnambula in February 1831.

The opera tells of Amina who sleepwalks the night before her wedding, and is found in Rodolfo’s bed. Lisa had earlier paid Rodolfo a visit, having discovered that he is a former local count, and on Amina’s arrival, hides in a cupboard, but drops her handkerchief in the room. Elvino is consumed with jealousy when he finds out that Amina has been asleep in Rodolfo’s bed, and – despite her protestations of innocence, supported by Rodolfo – he calls off the wedding, and prepares to marry Lisa instead. Teresa, having picked up Lisa’s handkerchief in Rodolfo’s room, triumphantly shows it to Elvino who realises that Lisa has lied to him. Amina is found once more walking in her sleep, and Elvino, realising she is innocent, slips his ring onto her finger, making her dreams come true.

Rolando Villazón – described by The Times as “the most charming of today’s divos”, and by Süddeutsche Zeitung as having “a wonderfully virile voice…grandezza, elegance and power” – is a highly versatile artist. In addition to his on-stage career, he is equally successful as a stage manager, a novelist and also a TV personality.

Jean-Michel Criqui is a revival director who most recently collaborated with Robert Carsens on a production of Carmen at Dutch National Opera. He has also recently worked with Mariame Clément on Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia, on Verdi’s at the Aalto-Theater Essen and on Bellini’s Norma at Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu.

The Nice Opera Orchestra and Chorus are led by the internationally acclaimed Italian conductor, Giuliano Carella. Maestro Carella’s wide repertoire ranges from the Classical composer Giovanni Paisiello to the contemporary work of Lorenzo Ferrero, and includes the most important works in the Italian, and several in the French, operatic repertoires. Also a symphonic conductor, Maestro Carella has appeared in many of the major opera houses of the world, and has been President of I Soloisti Veneti since 1990.

La Sonnambula runs at Opéra Nice Côte d’Azur from 4th to 8th November. Tickets may be reserved on this link.

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Lead image courtesy Opéra Nice Côte d’Azur

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