Bellini: La Sonnambula

Richard Bonynge conducting Orchestra and Chorus of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, with Joan Sutherland and Sylvia Stahlman, sopranos; Nicola Monti, tenor; and Fernando Corena, bass; London OSA-1365 (stereo) and A-4365: three records

Few operas are more dependent upon a star soprano than this rustic drama of a maiden whose sleepwalking proclivities land her in all sorts of awkward, not to say compromising, situations. Joan Sutherland, around whom this recording (and this season’s Metropolitan Opera revival) is centered, is nothing short of prodigious in the title role. Perhaps Maria Callas, who has also recorded the complete opera, creates more of a personal and pathetic figure in Amina, the noctambulating village maid. But she never sent up so brilliant a fountain of musical fireworks, the kind that temporarily blind one to the essential thinness and repetitiveness of the opera. The rest of the cast is suave and accomplished, and the sound has both depth and richness. Miss Sutherland’s husband, Richard Bonynge, conducts — not exactly uxoriously, but with no great dash or originality either.