Bellini Sonnambula Sutherland Monti CorenaVincenzo Bellini – La Sonnambula

CAST: Amina: Joan Sutherland, Teresa: Margareta Elkins, Conte Rodolfo: Fernando Corena, Elvino: Nicola Monti, Lisa: Sylvia Stahlman, Alessio: Giovanni Foiani, Un notaro: Angelo Mercuriali

Orchestra e coro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino

Richard Bonynge, conductor

Decca, 1962

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Joan Sutherland’s first, “official” recording of Vincenzo Bellini’s La Sonnambula took place in 1962, just few years after another leading soprano of the last century, Maria Callas, performed the role at La Scala (the two primedonne share the same Elvino, Nicola Monti). Therefore, next to Callas’s dramatically committed performance of Amina, Sutherland juxtaposes her own, poetic one after a short lapse of time – with an abundance that this opera never saw again.

Joan Sutherland Amina in 1962

In 1962, Joan Sutherland’s Amina does not reach the deeply psychological implications of her 1980 “sister”, but she has already clear the elegiac direction she will take later and, furthermore, she benefits of a fresher voice.

Sutherland’s Amina seems to live in another world from the very beginning, when she makes her entry in Care compagne with suavity, and when she continues with vocal acrobatics which seem merely caressed so much they are airy. Sutherland’s easy coloratura has never been so effortless, while her high notes are sparkling and ringing, her middle register is velvety and rather pathetic and she finds the way to convey Amina’s sorrow in Ah, non credea mirarti with extreme suggestiveness thanks to her smooth singing. Grace constantly replaces the dramatic temperament Sutherland lacks and makes her Amina one of the frailest and delicate creatures in the operatic history.

Nicola Monti (Elvino) & Fernando Corena (Conte Rodolfo)

Nicola Monti is not one greatest tenors who sang Elvino (we are miles away from the greatness of Luciano Pavarotti) and he tries to sing as best as he can, despite these are often frustrated by his timid vocal style, by a voice which is never sensational and often uneven (he reaches his high notes in falsetto), and especially by his wobbling intonation.

Fernando Corena, for his part, is quite a surprise as the Conte Rodolfo, not because of his (always excellent) musicianship, but for the fact that we find in a serious role a bass who is easier to find as a comic character (even in a “serious” opera as La forza del destino). Corena’s Rodolfo reveals not only a dark, intense and beautiful timbre, but also intelligent incisiveness and abandonment (Vi ravviso), as well as humanity, both in his weaknesses and in his remorse (in the inn scene).

Richard Bonynge’s Conduction

Richard Bonynge prepares what he will complete in the next recording of La sonnambula in 1980. He already has clear ideas about the precious, rich sound of the orchestra (the fine orchestra of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino) and his reading is always full of life with its brilliant shading and colouring.

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