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Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797 – 1848)
Lucia di Lammermoor - drama tragico in two parts
Lord Enrico Ashton…Roberto Frontali (baritone)
Lucia…Stefania Bonfadelli (soprano)
Sir Edgardo di Ravenswood…Marcelo Álvarez (tenor)
Lord Arturo BucklawCristiano Olivieri (tenor)
Raimondo BidebentMirco Palazzi (bass)
Alisa…Maria Castelli (mezzo soprano)
Normanno…Giovanni Maini (tenor)
Coro del Teatro Carlo Felice
Orchestra del Teatro Carlo Felice/Patrick Fournillier
Stage Director, Graham Vick

Recorded live at the Teatro Carlo Felice, Genova, June 2003. DVD
TDK DV-OPLDIL [145 mins]


To conclude that any part of a production is outstanding of necessity implies that other parts are not. So it is here. The singing and acting of Stefania Bonfadelli as Lucia and of Marcelo Álvarez as Edgardo are outstanding.

My second introductory generalisation is that if a part of the production causes you to think about it whilst the performance is in progress, then that part is obtrusive. So it is here. The stage settings include overlapping or meeting side-screens or flats with rising and lowering screens providing opportunities for openings in the sets. These, whilst mentally stimulating, are distracting – particularly when, very cleverly, the opening ‘moves’ across stage during a scene – or to be precise as the scene progresses it is noted in different positions.

This is a ‘one set fits all’ with the aforesaid screens and the odd table and chair. The wind-bent tree on a (rocky?) outcrop strewn with flowers/heather provides opportunities for striking pictorial images which are taken to the full but from which the fountain is missing. That leaves Regnava nel silenzio somewhat less poignant because Lucia must be describing what she saw elsewhere rather that on the spot where the tale is delivered.

In her opening scene Bonfadelli skips about the set in carefree if highly strung mode. Her facial expressions throughout are striking: from the wide-eyed fearful wonder of Regnava nel silenzio through affronted repulsion in Il pallor funesto, orrendo and on to an insanity which commands sympathy and understanding in its carefully moderated wildness. And can she sing as well? Yes, she certainly can. Maybe there is a hint of effort in the two stratospheric moments but everywhere else she makes it all seem quite easy: word clarity, notes middled, clear coloratura without glissando, here sharply delivered phrases, there a romantic legato and finally vocal ‘playing’ with the orchestra.

Whilst just occasionally the orchestral tempo seemed slow, with one or two moments when all are ‘standing waiting’, the joy for me was that our otherwise excellent conductor never tried to set up a competition with the singers. He understands perfectly the role of the orchestra to complement the singers having set up their scenes for them. After a slightly hesitant start excellent support followed.

Roberto Frontali sings Enrico. The more I see and hear this role and read translations of the libretto (my Italian is nowhere near good enough to read an original) the more I think that it is a difficult role for vocal display. Enrico spends most of the opera in a temper about something: his waned power; the existence of his sister’s lover; her failure to be overjoyed at the prospect of marrying Arturo; Egardo’s arrival; the meeting to arrange the duel. It does not leave much else: fearful before meeting Lucia and then failed persuasiveness. Even his momentary remorse in the wedding scene quickly evaporates into rage or anger. Therefore is it surprising that this role is often sung forte with little variation? So it is here and on other recordings. Frontali scowls and vocally castigates all and sundry: and does it well but there is not a lot more to it. Except perhaps his acting, no doubt as directed, which for the most part is unexceptional save for two points: first, would he really be so “hands on” with Lucia when trying to persuade her of the necessity for her betrothal to Arturo; and second, would he really kick aside the wedding contract, upon which his future depends, which lands at his feet after Edgardo has swept it from the table?

Edgardo’s role gives much greater opportunities which Álvarez accepts and despatches with verve and aplomb. Vocally reminiscent of Pavarotti? Well, yes and there is nothing wrong with that. Álvarez is perhaps deeper in tone if not quite the smoothie. He nails every note and delivers emotional strength and colouring.

Mirco Palazzi as Raimondo is described in the accompanying leaflet as “Lucia’s teacher and confidant”. That does not sit comfortably with his verbal (not physical, in this production) interruption of the sword fight with the reference to respecting God’s majesty in him and his wearing clerical apparel. A small but curious point. However, the nub is that I do not think that Palazzi has either the physical presence or vocal gravitas to fill the role; adequate but no more.

Arturo is really a cameo role sung here with a somewhat harsh timbre but acted with a diffident air of elegant superiority by Cristiano Olivieri. Alisa and Normanno are played and sung competently by Maria Castelli and Giovanni Maini respectively.

The choral opening of the search is set at night, with a mix of costumes: the musket-bearing uniformed; the night-shirted and capped; and the fully dressed. Odd because of their later line “what a day”. Giorno not notte. They sing with a good legato even if one is distracted by the rising and lowering screens leaving their head and shoulders visible only in Il tuo dubbio è ormai certeza. In later scenes, apart from the dancing for the wedding celebration, the chorus seems physically and vocally subdued with little animation.

With those several reservations, is this DVD worth the money? Answer: yes it is. Parts may be undistinguished, parts even distracting or inconsistent, but the vocal and acting strengths of Bonfadelli alone justify the purchase. Throw in Álvarez and the excellent orchestral support and there is nothing to debate. Worth the money indeed.

Robert McKechnie


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