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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at the Metropolitan Opera


  Juan Diego Florez and Natalie Dessay/Ph: Ken Howard

You might be surprised by the unruly rowdiness of operagoers. If they don't like something, they will boo without pause or hesitation. And that happened last week at the Metropolitan Opera. When Tony winner Mary Zimmerman took a bow at curtain call of her new production of La Sonnambula, hundreds loudly booed in disapproval of her postmodern interpretation of the bel canto classic.

This marked the Met's first take on Bellini's melodrama since a 1972 production starring Renata Scotto. Set in a Swiss village, the virginal Amina, on the verge of marrying her boyfriend Elvino, unconsciously sleepwalks into another man's bed. Luckily, Elvino eventually learns that she is in fact a sleepwalker, and all ends happily. Needless to say, it's a silly story. But then again, most 19th-century operas are silly.

Zimmerman has set her production in a downtown rehearsal studio where a small opera company is rehearsing a traditional production of La Sonnambula. But in the weirdest choice of all, the story, actions and characters of the opera are supposed to reflect those of the opera company.

For instance, the woman playing Amina is supposed to be named Amina in real life. When the chorus learns that Amina was found in another man's bed, they start throwing chairs and ripping apart copies of the score. It makes absolutely no sense! And it's never clear whether the actors are supposedly rehearsing or acting out the drama as if in real life. This is a real disappointment following Zimmerman's solid production of Lucia di Lammermoor last season.

Still, this production features the absolutely stellar vocal performances of opera stars Natalie Dessay and Juan Diego Florez. A word to the wise: close your eyes, perk up your ears, completely ignore the staging, and you'll have no reason for booing.

Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center, 212-362-6000, $15-$295. Check for performance schedule. Through April 3.


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