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A Dark and Twisted 'Lucia'

Lyubov Petrova (Lucia) and cast, Lucia di Lammermoor, Washington National Opera, 2011 (photo by Scott Suchman)
Charles T. Downey, Opera Review: “Lucia” at the Kennedy Center (The Washingtonian, November 14):
The Washington National Opera has opened a new production of Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, the company’s first since 2002. Perhaps better known for champagne-sparkly comic operas, Donizetti excelled at writing gorgeous melodies and at finding astute musical characterizations for all kinds of situations, both comic and tragic. Lucia, with a libretto adapted by Salvatore Cammarano from the arch-romantic Walter Scott novel The Bride of Lammermoor, follows the story of a Scottish nobleman, Ashton (Enrico), who prevents his sister, Lucia, from loving his enemy, Ravenswood (Edgardo), in favor of a politically advantageous alliance with another man, Arturo. The already mentally fragile girl, confronted by Edgardo after signing the marriage contract, loses her senses, stabbing Arturo in their marriage bed. The subsequent mad scene, featuring the prima donna’s astounding feats of vocal derring-do, is one of the most celebrated in opera. As one murder apparently doesn’t shed enough blood for a tragic opera, Edgardo then kills himself on the tombs of his ancestors after learning that Lucia has died.

WNO is fielding two casts for this comparatively short performance run, and the good news is that both of them, heard at the Kennedy Center Opera House last Thursday (A cast) and Saturday night (B cast), are worth hearing. Both Lucias are impressive, but for different reasons. The A cast’s Sarah Coburn gave the more consistently beautiful performance, with especially clear fioriture (the intricate runs of fast notes in bel canto opera) and limpid, well-placed high notes. Her emphasis on flawless vocal execution reached its apogee in the cadenza at the end of the mad scene’s slow section, a place for the soprano to show off her technique. The B-cast Lucia, Russian soprano Lyubov Petrova, also sang the role here in 2002. While technically skilled and providing plenty of vocal thrill, she fell just shy of Coburn’s musical standard; the runs were a little less clear, and some of the high notes turned acidic and even faded out in the famous Act II sextet, where Lucia has to soar over the entire choral ensemble. Petrova sang a much simpler cadenza in the mad scene, but where Coburn was a little cold and sterile, even in the mad scene, Petrova was so dramatically compelling that when there was a pause in the music -- a point at which the audience naturally applauds, as they did during Coburn’s performance, for example -- the house remained in stunned silence. [Continue reading]
Philip Kennicott, Washington National Opera’s rough ‘Lucia’ needs polishing (Washington Post, November 12)

Terry Ponick, Washington National Opera's 'Lucia': superb singing, shadowy staging (Washington Times, November 13)

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