This features an alluring Lucia throughout who only descends
into madness in the last act. It is not surprising that the directorial
team chose to postpone any insanity until as late as possible.
Anna Netrebko looks in blooming health having only a few months
previously given birth to her first child - not quite the most
famous operatic baby but certainly one that caused opera houses
to alter castings. There is no suggestion of the early Lucia
having a disturbed personality. This is not a disturbed mind
gradually crumbling and descending to madness - more of which
This is another production for which the producer Mary Zimmerman
alters the setting. Here
it remains in Scotland but fast-forwards from the seventeenth
century, bypasses the date of writing, and on into the late Victorian
period. Scotland? Maybe: the only such evidence is a dull tartan
(?) shoulder sash for Normanno with guards’ caps. Therefore
there is no clan/house difference between the factions of Lammermoor
and Ravenswood. No vibrant tartans, not a kilt or sporran in
sight, so we could be anywhere that offers a heath with stately
For Netrebko’s first appearance she wears what might be
described as a classical side-saddle hunting habit with a pert
riding hat. The muff suggests drawing room rather than hunting
field as does the immaculate hair pleat with single ringlet.
With make-up to match here is a physically resplendent Netrebko.
That arrival is heralded by the excellently played harp solo
(Mariko Anraku). In Regnava nel silenzio
(CD1 tr.9) Netrebko
recounts seeing the ghost of her ancestress slain by a Ravenswood
and disposed of in the nearby fountain - which looks more like
a well, a necessary change for what follows. The distracting
ghost actually appears during Netrebko’s moving aria, mirroring
her movements before climbing into the well. There are few embellishments
so no suggestion of even slight mental insecurity.
Despite her adored Edgardo (Piotr Beczala) telling her of his
immediate departure to France, slight sadness (no instability)
is replaced by joy at the loving exchange of rings. As an aside
it is unfortunate that Beczala places the ring on her left hand
but at the end of Act 2 snatches it off her right hand - a jarring
For her meeting with her brother, Mariusz Kwiecien as Enrico,
an almost plangent oboe announces her arrival. Even when shown
the forged letter there is only shock not derangement. During
some typical floor-rolling in the last duet of the scene, Netrebko
demonstrates her strong breath control and dynamics. This is
accompanied by a new floor level camera and a tedious number
of rapidly interchanging camera shots. At one point I counted
ten different shots in a 30 second period - surely the average
opera-goer’s attention span is better than that? But wait
until the end of the Act 2 Finale where there are more than 35
shots in 90 seconds: so very irritating.
Only in the “mad” scene itself are there some embellishments
with strong dynamics. Whilst she delivers a beautiful tone, delicious
legato and splendid pianissimos the lack of multi-layered ornamentation
with only limited stratospheric wandering - neither of which
are Netrebko’s strengths - is a disappointment.
However there is an excellent complementary tone and timbre with
her hero Beczala. He has matured much over the last few years;
now evincing a true Italianate tenor with clear diction and a
strongly focused attention to musical detail. His last act double
aria is a tour de force
. He offeers a ringing tone with
breath control, dynamics and tone to match.
is a necessity for Mariusz Kwiecien (Enrico), a
baritone in a temper about something for most of the opera. However
Kwiecien provides a deeper insight in the scene with his sister
Lucia. He starts with almost gentle persuasion rather than the
bullying or blackmail with which he concludes. Indeed even at
that stage he gives an excellent impression of reluctance about
imposing financial practicality on her ill-conceived love. Kwiecien
sharply defines Enrico throughout, again with tonal beauty when
. Good diction and serious acting make for
an excellent performance.
It is left to Ildar Abdrazakov as Raimondo, Lucia’s tutor
and religious adviser, to provide the voice of reason. He duly
obliges with restraint and conviction. His delivery of Dalle
stanze ove Lucia
(CD2 tr. 5), announcing Lucia’s murder
of Arturo, is stage-commandingly delivered with gravitas and
some deep colouring.
Colin Lee (Arturo) is a delightfully self-important Arturo. He
brings an exhilarating timbre similar to that of Juan Diego Florez.
His cavatina Per poco
(disc 1 track 25) is delivered with
elegant line and easy phrasing.
Michael Myers is the captain of the guard, Normanno. He does
not have the strongest voice but despatches the role competently
as does Michaela Martens as Lucia’s companion Alisa.
The large chorus is in capital form: crisp and convincing, strong
dynamics and excellent diction throughout meriting the small
fortune that appears to have been spent on their wardrobe: begrudge
them not a cent. Marco Armiliato keeps the whole moving along
smartly for most of the time: allowing a generous slack in some
arias for soloists to wring the last lyrical drops from Donizetti’s
Vocally the ensembles are taut: none more so than in what is
generally thought to be one of the most famous sextets in the
operatic repertoire Chi mi frena
(disc 1 track 28). And
there praise and enthusiasm come to an abrupt halt: ground down
by the appalling affectation of a mimed photographer organising
the principals in poses for his camera during the sextet. Quite
dreadful. As is the doctor injecting Lucia near the end of the ‘mad’ scene
and the ghost of the fountain replicated in Lucia’s own
ghost at Edgardo’s death.
With a Metropolitan Opera live High Definition recording there
has to be an introduction: this time by Natalie Dessay, a former
Lucia of this production, walking over the opening stage telling
us what we are going to see - with some later shots of principals
leaving the stage. Fortunately the usual gushing interviews are
confined to a succession of extras at the end of the second disc
where they can remain.
Finally, a comparison with a production I reviewed in 2004. Stefania
Bonfadelli on TDK’s Genoa recording (DV-OPLDIL) is a neurotic
Lucia from the start. She disintegrates into madness gradually
with strong acting, facial expressions, coloratura agility, and
flute echoes second to none. For me, Bonfadelli gives a stronger
representation of the path to madness and her whole performance
is centred on that concept.