Left – Sitiveni Talei, Aldo Di Toro, Sally-Anne Russell and Emma Matthews. Cover – Aldo Di Toro and Emma Matthews. Photos – Photografeo.
Opera is a complex spectacle to put on. It is only when all art forms melt together that opera becomes pure magic. Vincenzo Bellini’s La sonnambula which opened the State Opera of South Australia’s subscription season was magical. Vibrant and skilled voices, an excellent orchestra, beautiful costumes, a clever set design, introductory lecture in the foyer and a glossy program gelled perfectly on the night to present a world-class opera experience.
Emma Matthews shined in the role of Amina. Her exquisite bel canto singing with its intricate coloratura and sparkly high notes were unlikely but successful means of an honest portrayal. Her down to earth Amina was a young woman in love, innocent and tormented by her affliction. Her Ah non credea mirarti in the second act was the culmination of the performance. She was a true diva – an enchanted sorceress in control of her audience, time and space.
Her husband to be, Elvino, was played by Aldo Di Toro. Di Toro is the ideal lover one could ever hope to find on the operatic stage. He came on with a strong lyric tone; singing of love with phrasing coming straight from the heart. His voice is electrifying and capable of intricate nuances. Sweetness turned into anger, rage and bitterness, and then again into charming affection. His handsome appearance is complemented by skilful acting which renders his delivery precise and authentic.
Andrew Collis matched this level with a rich timbre supported by a commanding presence on stage. He was brilliant in expressing deep longing and moral resolve, but also cunning persuasion.
In the supporting role of Teresa, Sally-Anne Russell was the typical Italian mother, projecting tenderness and caring with her warm timbre. With a good grasp of their characters Teresa La Rocca (Lisa) and Sitiveni Talei (Alessio) displayed promising voices. Robert Macfarlane was a funny notary.
Conducted by Benjamin Northey, the orchestra supplied a transparent accompaniment which never overpowered the singers and complemented Bellini’s delicate melodic writing. The State Opera of South Australia Chorus blended their voices well and sang with flawless pronunciation and diction. Dressed in period costumes, the members had such a variety of characteristic faces that it was interesting to watch them during the course of the performance. This was matched by excellent acting and constant movement, smartly designed to provide comic relief during long ensembles.
Richard Roberts, Julie Edwardson and Matt Scott have delivered an interesting production dominated by a revolving square platform, the possibilities of which were totally exhausted during the two acts. Julie Edwardson’s directing is fresh and captivating.
The appearance of Emma Matthews, Aldo Di Toro, Teresa la Rocca and Benjamin Northey was courtesy of generous patrons Peter and Pamela McKee, the Hon. Dr Kemeri Murray AO,Dr Christine Rothauser, and Kaaren and Kevin Palmer respectively. It takes top performers to create these thrills and inspire the rest of the cast. Without financial support this production of La sonnambula would have not been so enticing. Storms of applause filled the packed Festival Theatre at the end of spectacular arias, ensembles, and at the end of the acts. It was obvious that the audience was aroused and satisfied.
State Opera of South Australia presents
Conductor Benjamin Northey
Director Julie Edwardson
Venue: Festival Theatre
Dates/Times: 16, 19, 21, 23 July 2011 @ 7.30pm
Bookings: BASS 131 246
Written by Daniela Kaleva, University of South Australia