Wednesday, 24 February 2010

LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR, English National Opera, 23 Feb 2010

Gaetano Donizetti: LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR
English National Opera, 23 Feb 2010

LUCIA                                                                                    Anna Christy

ENRICO ASHTON                                                                Brian Mulligan
Laird of Lammermoor, Lucia's brother

EDGARDO                                                                            Jaewoo Kim
Laird of Ravenswood

LORD ARTURO BUCKLAW                                              Dwayne Jones
Lucia's bridegroom

RAIMONDO BIDEBENT                                                    Clive Bayley

ALISA                                                                                   Sarah Pring
Lucia's companion

NORMANNO                                                                      Philip Daggett
a retainer of Edgardo

Retainers, servants, wedding guests

Chorus and orchestra of English National Opera
Glass harmonica: Alexander Marguerre

Conductor: Antony Walker

Director: David Alden

This production was new last year, and at the time was not well-received in all quarters. A year on, however, it has stood the test of time; the production team has turned it into something of a Victorian Melodrama, but the seeds of Victorian Melodrama were always present in the opera, if not necessarily in the novel. It is updated to roughly the 1830s/1840s, and the set and costumes are mainly in shades of grey, accurately reflecting a dour Scottish Presbyterianism.

The soprano was again Anna Christy, and her performance this time was a real tour de force....I love Lucia di Lammermoor because it is so much more than an excuse for the soprano to 'show off'! She needs the high notes and the coloratura, of course, but the performance emphasised the tragedy as well as the vocal virtuosity that is needed to make the opera work.
At the beginning she is presented as a child, she still has toys, and the toys are also used by her brother (Brian Mulligan) as a visual metaphor for their abusive relationship.

She is only 'promoted' to adulthood when she agrees to marry Arturo - and this is one of the saddest sights before the actual mad scene, she has no women to help her prepare for the marriage, only the abusive brother who forces her into the wedding dress.

(The image is from last year, the baritone at that performance was Mark Stone).

This Lucia moves from being an abused child to a desperately unhappy woman, and then comes the Mad Scene, in which she seems to have reverted to childhood again. Instead of descending the staircase, as is often the case in productions of this opera,  as Raimondo finishes his narration we see her huddled on the platform at the back of the stage, this time dressed only in a bloodstained white shift.

The clear, high soprano is very poignant and moving during this scene, which was in fact one of the most convincing and dramatic I have ever witnessed, precisely because it was more than just a display of vocal pyrotechnics - vocal pyrotechnics were there in abundance, but within this framework Christy succeeded in conveying the complete disintegration of Lucia's reason. What made it particularly horrific was that in her delusion that she is standing at the flower-strewn altar with Edgardo she actually embraces the bloodstained body of Arturo.......and at one point the beautiful floaty high notes almost metamorphosed into shrieks of hysteria, as she seemed to gain some dim awareness of what she has done - but the moment passes.....

The Edgardo this time was Jaewoo Kim, who was quite a convincing lover, although he sometimes had difficulty with the high notes.
Enrico was sung by Brian Mulligan, who was perhaps less successful than Mark Stone in conveying the depths of Enrico''s villainy, but still made a very creditable effort. Clive Bayley was a very robust and forceful Raimondo.

The orchestra under Antony Walker produced a very dark, brooding atmosphere right from the beginning, with tempi right on target, and they used a glass harmonica.

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