Magnificent surprises

Bellini's "Sleepwalker' by Curtis Opera

2 minute read
To give all its young talent a chance, Curtis Opera Theatre offers alternate casts. I caught the second of four performances of Curtis Opera's recent production of Bellini's The Sleepwalker at The Prince recently. What a magnificent surprise to hear Elizabeth Reiter sing Amina, the sleepwalking soprano in danger of losing her groom-to-be. Reiter is first-rank, no question.

Reiter, a slip of a girl, acted very much a bride, full of enthusiasm she can't contain and later torn to despair. Her soprano—pure and playfully unforced— still rings in my ears. She has worked very hard to sound this natural.

The other standout was baritone Evan Boyer, who sang the feudal lord Rodolfo with full, rounded tones as well as the presence to match his commanding stature.

Orchestra on stage

This production was unstaged, with a small orchestra on stage and a Greek-style chorus: five men, five women seated on either side, dressed in black. Only the principals were costumed stunningly in color.

This arrangement worked very well. The singers kept to their positions and their acting with apparent ease. Jazimina MacNeil, who played Amina's friend Teresa, was mostly seen in profile, so that her presence didn't detract from Amina's gleefully juggled coloratura. The principals often entered from behind or through the orchestra, which functioned as its own scrim. Would that some staged operas worked as well.

Opera's dumbest role

Elvino may be opera's dumbest role. Christopher Tiesi couldn't overcome that as Amina's over-jealous groom. He put emotion in his tenor, which has good quality but too often sounds clouded and confined.

The choruses were terrific. Curtis alumnus Benjamin Shwartz, fresh off three years' residency at the San Francisco Symphony, conducted. But the pared- down band included thin strings and— yes, it's hard to believe— occasionally a scraggly cello.

Next up for Curtis Opera: Rossini's The Barber of Seville, May 6-9.

What, When, Where

The Sleepwalker (La Sonnambula). Opera by Vincenzo Bellini; Benjamin Shwartz, conductor. Curtis Opera Theatre production February 18-21, 2009 at Prince Music Theater, 1412 Chestnut St. 215-(893) 5252 or

Sign up for our newsletter

All of the week's new articles, all in one place. Sign up for the free weekly BSR newsletters, and don't miss a conversation.

Join the Conversation