Vincenzo Bellini – La Sonnambula
CAST: Amina: Joan Sutherland, Elvino: Luciano Pavarotti, Conte Rodolfo: Nicolai Ghiaurov, Lisa: Isobel Buchanan, Alessio: John Tomlinson, Teresa: Della Jones, Notaro: Piero de Palma
London Opera Chorus
Chorus Master: Terry Edwards
National Philharmonic Orchestra
Richard Bonynge, conductor
Decca, 1982 (1987)
This is Joan Sutherland’s late recording of Vincenzo Bellini’s La Sonnambula. She was in the last years of her career and she sings again one of Bellini’s operas with Luciano Pavarotti, who was Pollione in the 1984 recording of Norma. Again as in that Norma, the present Sonnambula is conducted by Richard Bonynge, so that the extremely successful operatic trio of many recordings and production is constituted once again.
Joan Sutherland (Amina)
Of course, as in other recordings she made at the end of her career, this Sonnambula too suffers from the fact that Sutherland’s timbre is not as dazzling as before, but, once again, the bel canto primadonna shows her mettle.
If her Norma was not “complete” due to her limited dramatic commitment, Sutherland’s Amina is more refined and perfect. Despite the artificial diction of the Australian soprano, she is able to give the idea that Amina is an unaware and profoundly virtuous girl – not only because she did not betray Elvino, but because disloyalty is something that is incompatible with her bright, soft voice (that Sutherland discolours on purpose to accentuate the idea of innocence) which inspires only purity and kindness.
Apart from these psychological traits, Sutherland’s singing is as precise and virtuosic as usual: her coloratura is clean and flawless, her high notes are still luminous though less radiant than before and her perfect musicianship is nothing but superb.
Luciano Pavarotti (Elvino)
Luciano Pavarotti is equally polished as Elvino. Thanks to his ringing but flexible voice, he is able to range from his delicate entry in Prendi, l’anel ti dono to the overwhelming Non più nozze, to the meaningful Ah, perché non posso odiarti with incomparable artistry, while some rush in the recitatives and exaggerations are minor flaws that do not compromise his performance.
Nicolai Ghiaurov (Conte Rodolfo)
As a representative of a glorious tradition of basses, Nicolai Ghiaurov – always expressive, always elegant – is an ideal Rodolfo. Even though Vi ravviso may lack some tenderness and melancholy, Ghiaurov is irreprehensible for his soft phrasing, clear diction and for the heartfelt humanity with which he sings the Count.
Finally, Richard Bonynge’s conduction is as accurate and fine as ever. The colours of the National Philharmonic Orchestra are bright and it is interesting to notice how he characterizes situations and characters with deep and penetrating insight.