Sonnambula, La (The Sleep-Walker)
  • Vincenzo Bellini. Melodramma in two acts. 1831.
  • Libretto by Felice Romani, after the ballet-pantomime La sonnambule, ou L'arrivée d'un nouveau seigneur (The Sleep-Walker, or The Arrival of a New Lord) by Eugène Scribe and Jean-Pierre Aumer.
  • First performance at the Teatro Carcano, Milan, on 6th March 1831.
CHARACTERS
Count Rodolpho, lord of the village bass
Amina, an orphan, soprano
Teresa, her foster-mother, owner of the mill mezzo-soprano
Lisa, hostess of the inn, in love with Elvino soprano
Elvino, a young farmer tenor
Alessio, a villager, in love with Lisa bass
A Notary tenor

There is general celebration in the village of the coming marriage of Amina and Elvino, a match that Lisa, herself in love with Elvino, deplores. She rejects the continued attentions of Alessio. Count Rodolpho arrives, after a long absence and generally unrecognised by the villagers. He is entertained for the night by Lisa in her inn, but Amina walks in her sleep and wakes to find herself in the Count's room, arousing further jealousy in an already suspicious Elvino, who now rejects her, in spite of the attempted intervention of the villagers and the support of the Count; now he will marry Lisa. Matters are resolved when Amina is seen perilously walking in her sleep, solving the village mystery of a suspected ghost and the allegations of her infidelity. Before her final reconciliation with Elvino she finds the occasion, as she sleeps, for a brief mad scene, from which she is gently wakened by her lover.

Among the best known of 19th century operas, a model of the pastoral genre, La Sonnambula (The Sleep-Walker) has provided an effective vehicle for sopranos from Giuditta Pasta, who created the title-rôle, to Jenny Lind, Maria Callas, Joan Sutherland and others of similar stature. Amina’s happiness is reflected in her first act Care compagne (Dear companions) and her first love scene with Elvino. Most famous of all his her final sleep-walking scene, Ah! non credea mirarti (Ah! Scarcely could I believe the flowers would wither so soon), an opportunity for moving dramatic performance.