Vincenzo Bellini was a young man, not yet 30, when he composed La Sonnambula in 1831. He was certainly not a happy-go-lucky fellow when it came to choosing his operatic subject matter. His works were built around betrayal, backstabbing, heartbreak and graphic deaths. His protagonists were typically poisoned, stabbed, or immolated. Then there’s La Sonnambula.
In La Sonnambula, set in a sweet Tyrolean village, our heroine is discovered in the wrong man’s bed. How did she get there? Sleepwalking. Does she meet the usual grisly, Bellini-esque fate? No. In fact, in the end, she gets the guy (though, he’s not that great a catch.)
When Bellini wrote La Sonnambula, he was trying to placate some persnickety Italian censors who had just squashed his setting of Ernani, a Victor Hugo story containing the usual dose of swordplay, assassination, suicide and poison. So, Bellini turned to a tale so innocent that no one could object.
The innocence of its sentiment is the perfect complement to the inspired purity of Bellini’s melodic style. Though, the cast of small-town characters surrounding Amina is not so innocent, each portraying in their own way, jealousy, envy, lust, hubris, and a certain tendency toward social climbing, Our own Elks Lodge Ballroom is the perfect setting to image yourself transported to an opera hall in small town Italy in the middle of the 19th Century.
Act 1, Scene 1: A village, a mill in the background
As the betrothal procession of Amina and Elvino approaches, the villagers all proclaiming joy for Amina. Except, Lisa, the proprietress of the inn, comes outside expressing her misery. She is consumed with jealousy for she had once been betrothed to Elvino and had been abandoned by him in favour of Amina.
The lovelorn Alessio arrives. Lisa rejects his advances.
Then Amina comes out of the mill with her foster-mother, Teresa. She is the owner of the mill and had adopted Amina many years before. Amina thanks her, also expressing her thanks to her assembled friends for their kind wishes. Additionally, she thanks Alessio, who tells her that he has composed the wedding song and organised the celebrations; she wishes him well in his courtship of Lisa, but Lisa cynically rejects the idea of love.
Elvino arrives, exclaiming “Forgive me my beloved”, and explaining that he had to stop on his way at his mother’s grave to ask her blessing on Amina. As they exchange vows, the notary asks what she brings to the partnership: “Only my heart” she answers.
The sound of horses’ hooves and a cracking whip is heard. A stranger arrives, asking the way to the castle. Lisa points out that it is getting late and he will not reach it before dark and she offers him lodging at her inn. When he says that he knows it, all are surprised. The newcomer, who surprises the villagers by his familiarity with the locality, asks about the celebrations and admires Amina, who reminds him of a girl he had loved long ago.
He admits to having once stayed in the castle, whose lord has been dead for four years. When Teresa explains that his son had vanished some years previously, the stranger assures them that he is alive and will return. As darkness approaches the villagers warn him that it is time to be indoors to avoid the village phantom. Not being superstitious, he assures them that they will soon be free of the apparition.
Elvino is jealous of the stranger’s admiration of Amina; he is jealous even of the breezes that caress her, but he promises her he will reform.
Scene 2: A room in the inn
Lisa enters Rodolfo’s room to see if all is well. She reveals that his identity is known to all as Rodolfo, the long-lost son of the count. She advises him that the village is preparing a formal welcome; meanwhile she wishes be the first to pay her respects. She is flattered when he begins a flirtation with her, but runs out at the sound of people approaching, dropping her handkerchief which the Count picks up.
He sees the approaching phantom who he recognises as Amina. She enters the room, walking in her sleep, all the while calling for Elvino and asking where he is. Realising that her nocturnal wanderings have given rise to the story of the village phantom, Rodolfo is about to take advantage of her helpless state. But then he is struck by her obvious innocence and refrains. As Amina continues her sleepwalk, Rodolfo hears the sound of people approaching and, with no other way out, he climbs out of the window.
Amina continues to sleep on the sofa as the villagers arrive at the inn. Lisa enters and points to Amina, who wakes up at the noise. Elvino, believing her faithless, rejects her in fury. Only Teresa believes in her innocence. Then the people and Teresa, the former proclaiming her treachery, Teresa pleading for her to be allowed to explain. Elvino then exclaims that there will be no wedding, and each expresses his or her emotional reaction to this discovery.
Act 2, Scene 1: A wood
On their way to ask the count to attest to Amina’s innocence, the villagers rest in the woods and consider how they will express their support to him. Amina and Teresa arrive and are on a similar mission, but Amina is despondent, although Teresa encourages her daughter to continue.
They then see Elvino coming in the wood looking downcast and sad. He continues to reject Amina, even when the townspeople come in with the news that the count says that she is innocent. Elvino is not convinced and takes back the ring, though he is unable to tear her image from his heart:
Act 2 Scene 2: The village, as in act 1
Lisa, Alessio, Elvino and the villagers are in the square. Elvino declares that he will renew his vows and proceed to marry Lisa. She is delighted. As they are about to go to the church, Rodolfo enters and tries to explain that Amina is innocent because she did not come to his room awake – she is a somnambulist, a sleepwalker. Elvino refuses to believe him and calls upon Lisa to leave, but at that moment Teresa begs the villagers to be quiet, because Amina has at last fallen into an exhausted sleep.
Learning of the impending marriage, Teresa confronts Lisa, who says that she has never been found alone in a man’s room. Teresa produces the handkerchief Lisa had dropped. The Count is unwilling to say what he thinks of this, but continues to insist on Amina’s virtue. Elvino demands proof and Rodolfo, seeing the sleeping Amina walking across the high, dangerously unstable mill bridge, warns that to wake her would be fatal. All watch as she relives her betrothal and her grief at Elvino’s rejection, taking the withered flowers in her hand. Then as she reaches the other side safely, the distraught Elvino calls to her and she is taken into his arms. Rodolfo hands him the ring which he places on her finger, at which time she awakens and is amazed by what has happened. All rejoice. In an aria finale, Amina expresses her joy.
Special Preview Wednesday, March 7th, 2018 at 7:30PM
Opening Night Friday, March 9th, 2018 at 7:30PM
Sunday Matinee, Sunday March 11th, 2018 at 2:00PM
Friday Date Night, Friday, March 16th, 2018 at 7:30PM
Closing Matinee, Sunday March 18th, 2018 at 2:00PM
Opera run time is approximately 2 hours
Anchor Society Lectures
Island City Opera’s Anchor Society invites you to join them for the Anchor Society Lectures held one hour prior to the curtain.PREVIEW SEATING
Single Preview Tickets: General Admission for Adults $25, Students (13 to 21 with student id) $10, Children (12 and under) $0.
Discount Season Pass: (Save $5. 1 ticket for each Preview) Adult $45.\
Single Performance Tickets: Reserved Sofa seats are $45. Front Row Cafe Table Seats (4 seats per table) are $60. Large Table Seats (10 seats per table) are $60.
Discount Season Passes: (Save up to $12. 1 ticket any Performance of each show). General Admission seats $72, Reserved Sofa Seats $81, Large Tables $108 and Front Row Cafe Tables $108.General Admission seats for Adults $40, Seniors $36, Students (13 to 21 with Student ID) $10, and, Child $0.Drinks will be on sale at the Bar at the rear of the Ballroom before the performance and during intermission and immediately afterwards. Wine will be on sale from the rolling bar near the stage before the curtain and during intermission.
Concessions will be on sale before the performance and during intermission from a variety of concessionaires who will be announce via email prior to the performance.
The illustrious cast of La Sonnambula
“There is no writing—just rewriting”. Composer Vincenzo Bellini and librettist Felice Romani found this to be abundantly so.
Vincenzo Bellini’s place of honor in opera history.