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The Sleepwalker: Curtis Opera’s ideal Amina

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Elizabeth Reiter: Awesome Amina

The Sleepwalker (La Sonnambula)
The Prince Music Theater
Curtis Opera Theatre
Feb. 18-21

Curtis Opera Theatre offers alternate casts. I caught the second of four performances of Curtis Opera’s production of Bellini’s The Sleepwalker at The Prince recently and got a magnificent surprise: Elizabeth Reiter sang Amina, the sleepwalking soprano in danger of losing her groom- to- be. I’d don’t recall hearing Reiter before (surely I would, if I had!). She is first- rank, no question. The other standout was baritone Evan Boyer as Rodolfo. Boyer, who looks pretty lordly, sang the count, projected with rounded tones and a fine presence to match his stature. Reiter, a slip of a girl, acted very much a bride, full of enthusiasm she couldn’t contain, later torn by despair. Her bel canto huge, securely on pitch, playfully unforced, still rings in my ears. She has probably worked very hard to sound this natural. (She’s a student of Marlena Malas.)
Curtis’s Sleepwalker, or La Sonnambula, was un-staged. It used a small orchestra on the Prince dias. A Greek- style chorus: five men, five women, dressed in black, seated either side the band, Only the principals were costumed stunningly in colors. This worked very well. The young singers kept to their positions and their acting with seeming ease. Teresa (Jazimina MacNeil) who plays Amina’s friend and mother, was mostly seen in standing profile, so that her presence did not detract from Amina’s gleefully juggled coloratura. The principals often entered from behind the orchestra which functioned as its own scrim. Would that many a staged opera worked as well.
Friday night’s Lisa (Alize Roznyai), Amina’s rival, went in and out of character, relying on stock gestures. Elvino is silly: one of opera’s dumbest roles. Christopher Tiesi couldn’t overcome that. He put emotion in his tenor, which has good quality but too often sounds clouded, confined. The choruses were terrific, prepared I believe by Danielle Orlando. Alumn Benjamin Shwartz, fresh off three years’ residency at the S.F. Symphony, conducted. (A band so pared down the strings did sometimes sound thin even, yes, this is hard to believe, an occasionally scraggly cello.)
Next up for Curtis Opera: Rossini’s The Barber of Seville.


Written by Lesley Valdes

February 22, 2010 at 12:42 am

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