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La Sonnambula

Ed. Critica A. Roccatagliati, L. Zoppelli

COMPOSER: Vincenzo Bellini
PUBLISHER: Ricordi
PRODUCT TYPE: Score
INSTRUMENT GROUP: Orchestra
As with many other scores of 19th century Italian opera, the edition of La sonnambula used up until now is the result of numerous manipulations made over the course of its long performance tradition, especially toward the end of the 19th century, and thus reflects a performing aesthetic very
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Specifications
Subtitle Ed. Critica A. Roccatagliati, L. Zoppelli
Composer Vincenzo Bellini
Editor A. Roccatagliati
Publisher Ricordi
Instrumentation Opera
Product Type Score
Instrument Group Orchestra
Year of Publication 2009
Genre Opera / Operette
ISBN 9788875928582
ISMN 9790041386188
Series UMPC Critical Editions
No. NR 13861800
Description
As with many other scores of 19th century Italian opera, the edition of La sonnambula used up until now is the result of numerous manipulations made over the course of its long performance tradition, especially toward the end of the 19th century, and thus reflects a performing aesthetic very different from that of Bellini’s own time. The critical edition aims to restore Bellini’s score to its original and very personal sound-texture and dramatic structure. In the case of Sonnambula the manipulations did not affect the form (e.g. excised or added pieces) so much as, instead, the tonal structure, the orchestration, and at times the melodic design.
The score currently used in performance presents three key numbers (Cavatina Elvino, Duettino, Scena and Aria Elvino of the second act) and part of the First Finale transposed to different keys with respect to the autograph score. In one case, the number had been broken into two sections and each section was subjected to a different transposition, which even distorted the internal tonal logic. A similar distortion occurs in the First Finale, where only the “stretta” was transposed. Altogether, about 40% of the opera was shifted to different keys with respect to Bellini’s original conception, at times also with heavy changes to the orchestration. The restoration of the original text will allow us to rediscover Bellini’s intentions regarding the logic of tonal concatenation and the original sonority of these pieces.
Some of the transpositions were of course dictated in the past by the difficult tessitura of Elvino’s part, a problem that even a modern performer will face. Bearing this practical issue in mind, the editors of the new critical edition have gone back to draw from coeval sources to suggest, in some cases, transpositional solutions that are less awkward than those currently employed, and which more closely respect both Bellini’s concept and contemporary performance practice.
Another issue is connected in part to the question of transpositions, but is also present in other pieces as well: the question of orchestration. Bellini’s original is often more subtle – with textures that are more “chamber-like”, with careful attention to the nuances of each timbre – than the currently used score, which at times has introduced gratuitous doublings (especially in the woodwinds) of octave shifts which alter the overall timbric color as well as the balance and rapport with the voices on stage. Conceivably, these changes were added over the years as the Bellini operas were increasingly performed by singers with late-19th century tastes, of the more “drammatic” and “verismo” schools. But the present-day efforts by singers to recapture the correct Bellini vocal style cannot be disjoined, clearly, from the need to restore the correct orchestral texture.
Vocal embellishments were another aspect of the score often altered over the years in subsequent scores. Bellini indicated them with great richness of detail and a highly personal style, often in the form of alternative proposals. Restoring them will give modern singers stimulating material with which to work. Even in matters of melodic design, over the years a certain number of errors of detail have become fixed parts of the modern score; as singers know, even matters of detail can alter the effect of Bellini’s melodic line (for instance in the second phrase of “Ah, non credea mirarti””). Further, the extreme detail with which Bellini write indications of expression has often been ignored by the current score; this is a level a detail which of course the critical edition restores. The result should give rise to a more animated musical logic, filled with contrasts and refined effects, less monumental and stodgy than many current performances.
Finally, the critical edition restores certain moments which were probably omitted even in the earliest years, due to difficulty of performance (though there should be no difficulty for modern performers), but which Bellini nonetheless certainly considered to be an integral part of the score. In particular, the splendid solo for “keyed trumpet” in the introduction of the Scena and Aria Elvino (Act 2), a passage of enormous dramaturgical and musical importance; in fact if it is omitted, the numerous subsequent musical citations which derive from it, lose their sense.
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