Most operas weave pretty far-fetched tales, but that isn't license for directors to retell them in ironic or mocking ways, Alex Ross writes in the New Yorker. Reviewing two recent productions at the Met, Ross hails a faithful staging of Verdi's Il Trovatore—but dismisses a high-concept version of Bellini's La Sonnambula that ignores the naturally "languid, trancelike aura of the early arias and duets."
Director Mary Zimmerman retells La Sonnambula as a rehearsal of La Sonnambula—a clever conceit, ably sung by Natalie Dessay and Juan Diego Flórez, but it doesn't suit the opera. Il Trovatore succeeds thanks to "the tastefully flamboyant" director David McVicar, who brings out "an earthy, lusty vibe" with a quartet of solid singers led by Sondra Radvanovsky. "An interpretation should begin with respect rather than contempt," Ross writes.