New York Times reviews Speranza conducting "La Sonnambula"
Review: Bellini’s ‘La Sonnambula,’ Sung by Promising Young Voices
By Anthony Tommasini
Over the last few years, the Juilliard School has become a hotbed for inventive opera productions. So it’s hard not to wish that the beautiful concert performance of Bellini’s “La Sonnambula” on Tuesday evening at the school’s Peter Jay Sharp Theater had been staged.
This rewarding performance, the first in a run of three, represented the latest collaboration between Juilliard Opera and the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program. Five of the six lead singers are current members in the prestigious program; the orchestra and chorus are made up of Juilliard students, conducted vividly by Speranza Scappucci, an Italian-born Juilliard graduate who is increasingly busy on the international opera circuit.
If this production lacked scenery and costumes, it offered expressive singing from a gifted cast. As Amina, the fragile, guileless title character of “La Sonnambula” (“The Sleepwalker”), the Korean soprano Hyesang Parkshowed she has the vocal endowment for this touchstone bel canto role. When we meet her, Amina is brimming with incredulous joy the night before her marriage to Elvino, a prosperous young farmer. The beguiling aria “Come per me sereno” conveys Amina’s contentment in fine-spun phrases. Yet the music is suffused with curious melancholy, suggesting that this young woman has a troubled psyche.
For the most part, Ms. Park shaped the lines beautifully and sang with melting sound and gleaming top notes. Amina’s climactic sleepwalking scene requires both delicate lyricism and daring coloratura agility; Ms. Park had both. Now and then, she seemed cautious, sometimes taking an extra moment to prepare a phrase, which let the line go slack. Yet even at the start of her career, she reveals the sadness below the surface of this music.
The tenor Kang Wang, who was born in China and grew up in Australia, made an endearing Elvino, singing with an ardent voice and sending phrases soaring without any hint of forcing. But he, like Ms. Park, sometimes seemed tentative in his dramatic delivery.
The most confident singing came from the Serbian bass Sava Vemic, as Rodolfo. Mr. Vemic brought a mellow, full-bodied voice, a feeling for bel canto phrasing and commanding stage presence to his portrayal. The bright-voiced soprano Clarissa Lyons found the right mix of wounded pride and sassiness for Lisa, the innkeeper, who has been jilted by Elvino. The solid bass-baritone Thesele Kemane was delightful as Alessio, Lisa’s frustrated suitor. Sara Couden’s rich mezzo-soprano and calm demeanor were ideal for Teresa, Amina’s foster mother.
Ms. Scappucci, who makes her debut with the Los Angeles Opera this spring in Puccini’s “La Bohème,” led an exacting yet stylishly supple account of this work. It’s time for her to conduct across 65th Street at the Met.
Correction: February 10, 2016
An earlier version of the service information with this article included an incorrect telephone number for ticket information; it is 212-769-7406, not 212-700-5000.
“La Sonnambula” repeats on Thursday and Saturday at Juilliard’s Peter Jay Sharp Theater, 155 West 65th Street, Manhattan; 212-769-7406, juilliard.edu.