Live preview: Sonnambula
Music, dance, puppetry and mystery combine to tantalize all the senses.
Fri Nov 4 2011
Photograph: Michael Bodel
Close your eyes like the sleepwalking heroine of Sonnambula and you may catch gentle whiffs of lavender, cedar or musty loam. In this intriguing riff on Bellini's bel canto mystery La Sonnambula from erudite choreographer Michael Bodel, nonvisual senses, particularly the aural and the olfactory, are heightened to immerse the audience in the titular sleepwalker's hazy dream world. Here, lines between consciousness and fantasy, past and present, become increasingly blurry.
Inspired by Bellini's 1831 opera, Sonnambula reveals Bodel's bottomless coffer of creative and intellectual interests, integrating live music, dance, puppetry, lighting and aromatics. Music is delivered by Berlin-based soprano Casey Cole as the Sleepwalker and cellist-composer Malina Rauschenfels, who has distilled Bellini's arias into arrangements for cello and voice. Cole, also billed as the show's musical director, shared Bodel's obsession with the opera's premise as well as its history. In particular, she became fascinated with the 19th-century Italian diva Giuditta Pasta, for whom Bellini wrote the title role. In Sonnambula, as Cole's Sleepwalker moves deeper into the opera's dreamscape, she begins to fuse with Pasta's historic character, transforming in musical approach and style of dress until it seems as if Pasta's ghost has risen to sing the role once more.
A troupe of puppets ranging in height from 18 inches to several feet, created by Bodel and animated by a quartet of puppeteers, join a pair of dancers in adding visual insight—and another mysterious layer—to the sleepwalker's strange journey.