Dessay And Florez Star In LA SONNAMBULA Opening 3/2
Natalie Dessay and Juan Diego Flórez, who created a sensation last season in La Fille du Régiment, star in a new production of Bellini's La Sonnambula opening March 2, directed by Mary Zimmerman and conducted by Evelino Pidò. Dessay takes the role of the sleepwalker Amina, with Flórez as her betrothed Elvino, and Michele Pertusi as the Count who almost ruins their wedding. Performances run through April 3, with Barry Banks singing Elvino at the final performance. Zimmerman returns with the creative team that collaborated on her hit production of Lucia di Lammermoor, which opened the 2007-08 season: Daniel Ostling, set designer; Mara Blumenfeld, costume designer; T.J. Gerckens, lighting designer; and Daniel Pelzig, choreographer.
The performance on March 21 will be transmitted live in high definition to over 35 countries around the world as part to The Met: Live in HD series. Renée Fleming will serve as host for the transmission.
Zimmerman sets the action in a modern-day rehearsal room, where a company of singers is rehearsing La Sonnambula ("The Sleepwalker"). Her theatrical conception mirrors the act of sleepwalking. "The rehearsal room and the stage are places of willful suspension," explains the Tony Award-winning director, "a kind of waking dream...the sleepwalker and the theatrical performer have one foot in a very real material world and one foot in the imaginative world."
Last heard at the Metropolitan Opera in 1972, La Sonnambula has appeared only intermittently in the company's repertory, but always to feature great coloratura sopranos, such as Marcella Sembrich, Maria Barrientos, Lily Pons, Joan Sutherland, and Renata Scotto. The role of Elvino has been sung by tenor luminaries as well, such as Enrico Caruso, Beniamino Gigli, and Nicolai Gedda.
Following her triumphs last season in the title roles of two Donizetti operas, Lucia di Lammermoor and La Fille du Régiment, Natalie Dessay adds the title role of La Sonnambula to her Met repertory. This production reunites her with two collaborators from last season: Mary Zimmerman directed her in Lucia di Lammermoor and Juan Diego Flórez partnered her in La Fille du Régiment. The New York Times critic wrote of her performance in the latter, "Not only does Ms. Dessay sing beautifully, but she also gives us something to look at every moment, acting out coloratura passages in detail...Ms. Dessay puts on quite a show." Following her 1999 Met debut as the Fiakermilli in Richard Strauss's Arabella, the French soprano sang the same composer's Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos, before turning to her native repertory with Olympia in Les Contes d'Hoffmann and Juliette in a 2005 new production of Roméo et Juliette. In the Met's 2009-10 season, Dessay will sing Ophélie in a new production of Ambroise Thomas's Hamlet, the first performances of that work at the Met since 1897.
For the first time at the Met, Juan Diego Flórez sings the role of Elvino, which he has sung in numerous productions elsewhere. Of his tumultuous success in last season's La Fille du Régiment, The New York Times said, "Juan Diego Flórez as Tonio, the aspiring lover from the mountains, delivered his famous string of high C's in Act I and then, repeating the whole thing, nailed them again. The crowd, as they say, went wild." A specialist in the high-lying bel canto roles, particularly those by Rossini, he sang Almaviva in the Met's 2006 hit new production of Il Barbiere di Siviglia. (Both Il Barbiere di Siviglia and La Fille du Régiment were featured as part of The Met: Live in HD series.) The Peruvian tenor's Met debut in 2002 as Almaviva was followed by two more Rossini roles: Don Ramiro in La Cenerentola and Lindoro in L'Italiana in Algeri. He also sang Ernesto in the new production premiere of Donizetti's Don Pasquale in 2006. Next season, Flórez returns to the role of Tonio in La Fille du Régiment, this time opposite Diana Damrau.
Michele Pertusi adds the role of Count Rodolfo in La Sonnambula to his Met repertory this season. Last season at the Met he sang Count Almaviva in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro, the role which also served as his company debut in 1997. He has also appeared at the Met as Figaro in Mozart's opera, as well as Alidoro in a 1997 new production of Rossini's La Cenerentola, Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor, Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte, and Leporello in Don Giovanni. Pertusi has sung in most of the world's major opera houses including Paris, Vienna, Berlin, La Scala in Milan, and many others. Earlier this season he sang Verdi's I Lombardi at the Teatro Regio in his native Parma.
Conductor Evelino Pidò collaborated with Natalie Dessay on performances of La Sonnambula in Lausanne and Lyon, and has recorded the opera with her in the title role. Maestro Pidò has conducted in the world's major opera houses including the Paris Opera, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, Vienna State Opera, Rome Opera, and the Teatro Regio in his native city of Turin. He also regularly conducts symphony orchestras such as the London Philharmonic, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Orchestra of Santa Cecilia in Rome, RAI Orchestra, and Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, among others. He made his American debut in 1993 in Santa Fe and his Met debut conducting L'Elisir d'Amore in 1999.
About the production team
Mary Zimmerman made her Met debut with last season's opening night new production of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor. The Associated Press writer praised both Zimmerman and Dessay who, "have given the Met a Lucia di Lammermoor worth keeping, one that's handsomely traditional and imaginatively provocative at the same time." Zimmerman received a 2002 Tony Award for Best Direction for her original adaptation of Ovid's Metamorphoses and was the 1998 recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship. She is a prolific adaptor-director whose works, such as The Odyssey, Arabian Nights, and The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, have been seen in theaters throughout the country and abroad. In addition to her distinguished work in theater, her opera experience includes productions of Philip Glass's Akhnaten (in Strasbourg and at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, where she is an Artistic Associate), the 2002 world premiere of Glass's Galileo Galilei, for which she also co-wrote the libretto (Goodman Theatre, London's Barbican Centre, Brooklyn Academy of Music), and Mozart's Die Zauberflöte (Chicago Opera Theatre). The American director returns to the Met next season for another bel canto rarity, Rossini's Armida, in a new production featuring Renée Fleming in the title role.
Daniel Ostling made his Met debut collaborating with Mary Zimmerman as set designer for Lucia di Lammermoor in 2007. He received a Tony nomination for his set designs for Metamorphoses, and he also collaborated with Zimmerman on Galileo Galilei, Measure for Measure at the New York Shakespeare Festival, and Trojan Women at the Goodman Theatre, among many other productions. His work in musical theater and opera includes Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi for the San Francisco Opera Center, Sondheim's Pacific Overtures for Chicago Shakespeare Theater and its Olivier Award-winning revival in London, and Osvaldo Golijov's Ainadamar at Tanglewood. Ostling is an ensemble member of Lookingglass Theatre in Chicago where he designs sets this season for The Brothers Karamazov. His other assignments for the season include Eurydice at Chicago's Victory Gardens, War Music for ACT in San Francisco, and UP for the Steppenwolf Theater.
Mara Blumenfeld is also an ensemble member of Lookingglass Theatre, where her costume designs for Lookingglass Alice earned her a 2007 Drama Desk nomination. Her many collaborations with Zimmerman include her Met debut in 2007 for Lucia di Lammermoor, as well as Metamorphoses, Galileo Galilei, Akhnaten, Measure for Measure, Trojan Women, and The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci. Her work has been seen frequently at the Goodman and Steppenwolf theater companies, both in Chicago, as well as at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (including Kushner's Homebody/Kabul), and the Berkeley Rep. This season she designs costumes for The Brothers Karamazov and Arabian Nights at Lookingglass and for Kafka on the Shore and UP at Steppenwolf.
T. J. Gerckens' lighting designs have won him numerous honors, including a Drama Desk Award (Metamorphoses) and nomination (The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci). He also designed the lighting for Zimmerman's productions of Lucia di Lammermoor (his Met debut in 2007), Galileo Galilei, Measure for Measure, The Odyssey, and Arabian Nights, among others. Since 1998, he has been Production Manager for the Contemporary American Theatre Company (CATCO) in Ohio.