La sonnambula: Adrian Kelly Introduces the Cast and Director

As we warm up for rehearsals, BIF’s Artistic Director Adrian Kelly introduces the cast and director for BIF’s 2023 production of La sonnambula.

Vincenzo Bellini‘s opera has always been a showcase for a spectacular soprano. Giuditta Pasta and Maria Malibran sang the work in the composer’s own lifetime, and in the twentieth century the role was sung by none other than Maria Callas and Dame Joan Sutherland.


In Buxton, audiences will have the possibility to hear a remarkable young singer, Ziyi Dai, in her UK debut. Ziyi made an astonishing debut at the Zürich Opera in 2022 singing the role of the Countess in Rossini’s Le Comte Ory. She has a number of exciting debuts planned for over the next couple of years. To my mind, she is one of the most impressive singers of her generation and I am excited that she will be heard by the Buxton audiences. (On a side note, I was a very junior member of music staff, working on a production of Tosca at the Royal Opera House in 2004 when I had the privilege of working with Yuqiang Dai, Ziyi’s father, who made his debut in London singing the role of Cavaradossi. It was my job to stand backstage following the score and to cue him when it was time to let out screams of excruciating pain. Ziyi would presumable have been at primary school back home in China…).


Nico Darmanin sang the role of Giacomo in La donna del lago in Buxton in 2022. He is an extraordinary singer, with thrilling voice and a charismatic presence on stage. Nico’s recent and future engagements have taken him to Torino, Glyndebourne and Tel Aviv. Nico is also a passionate entrepreneur who has developed and promotes his very own brand of gin from his home country of Malta.


The role of Rodolfo is sung by the South-African bass-baritone, Simon Shibambu. Simon was a young artist at the Salzburg Festival and subsequently at the Royal Opera House.  He recently performed Angelotti Tosca with English National Opera, and has also appeared with the Dutch National Opera, Aix-en-Provence Festival and Theatre an der Wien.

ELLIE NEATE ELISA (Il re pastore) and LISA (La sonnambula)

Ellie Neate was Cleopatra in BIF’s 2022 production of Hasse’s Marc’Antonio e Cleopatra. She also found time to sing the role of Maria Bertram in Mansfield Park. This summer she is equally busy, singing the role of Elisa in Il re pastore, as well as Lisa in La sonnambula.


Harry Fehr has directed several productions for the Buxton Festival, including Mozart’s La finta giardiniera (2013) and Bellini’s I Capuleti e Montecchi (2016).  Exploring the bel canto repertoire has also involved invitations to direct L’elisir d’amore for the Danish National Opera and Roberto Devereux in Karlsruhe.


Tickets for La sonnambula are available from £10 on the following dates:

Sat 8 July, 7.15pm

Wed 12 July, 7.15pm

Sun 16 July, 7.15pm

Wed 19 July, 7.15pm

Sat 22 July, 7.15pm

Click here to book.