Among the senses stimulated by theater there is one that has always remained overlooked: smell. Much like the recent addition of 4D movies to the kiddie film sphere, Sonnambula, written and directed by HERE Resident Artist Michael Bodel, is perhaps most unusual in its attempt to influence the audience through their olfactory senses through use of perfume, cedar, and lavender scents that correspond with certain moments in the course of the play.
Sonnambula centers around the nineteenth century Italian opera La Sonnambula. Within the opera a young couple, Amina Elvino, are planning to get married but their plans fall into trouble due to Amina being a sleepwalker. After sleepwalking into a visiting lord’s chambers she is accused of infidelity.
The story is told through the use of puppets and dancers (Katherine Lung and Cheri Paige Fogleman) who evoke moods reflecting the play’s events and setting. The lazy feeling of late spring is evoked by dancers who sprinkle seeds upon each other and lay back on a grassy hill, looking at the sun in languid splendor.The mood and setting are further evoked by the scent of lavender filling the room.
Alongside the story of the opera itself is also the story of the opera itself, which starred Giuditta Pasta, a legendary singer who destroyed her voice through her ceaseless dedication to performing the opera. Soprano Casey Cole takes on the role of Giuditta, showing a woman who is willing to sacrifice everything in order to be a singer, destroying her voice from the constant strain.
The play’s dancers effectively evoke her pain and exhaustion, dancing until they fall over, both sweaty and short of breath. Giuditta is shown mulling behind the stage curtains, shaking with anxiety, fearing that she does not have the talent to persevere
Although a short work, barely clocking in past an hour, Sonnambula has the feeling of being a potentially longer work. Bodel shows he possesses an immensely unique vision, incorporating choreography and aromatics in new ways.