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Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor": at the Metropolitan Opera, Conducted by Maurizio Benini
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Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor": at the Metropolitan Opera, Conducted by Maurizio Benini

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Lucia di Lammermoor
At the
Metropolitan Opera
Metropolitan Opera House

Music: Gaetano Donizetti
Libretto: Salvadore Cammarano
Based on the novel by:
Sir Walter Scott

Conductor: Maurizio Benini
Production: Mary Zimmerman
Set Designer: Daniel Ostling
Costume Designer: Mara Blumenfeld
Lighting Designer: TJ Gerckens
Choreographer: Daniel Pelzig
Stage Director: Sarah Ina Meyers
General Manager: Peter Gelb
Music Director: James Levine

Normanno: Eduardo Valdes
Enrico Ashton: Luca Salsi
Raimondo: Alastair Miles
Lucia: Albina Shagimuratova
Alisa: Theodora Hanslowe
Edgardo: Joseph Calleja
Arturo: Matthew Plenk

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 7, 2015

Lucia di Lammermoor (1835)
(Read the plot of the opera, Lucia di Lammermoor, here.)

Last summer, I had the pleasure of seeing the Met Opera’s Lucia di Lammermoor in the Live in HD Series and for months was looking forward to seeing it live onstage. Unfortunately, tonight’s live performance, although the Donizetti score was ebulliently conducted by Maurizio Benini, did little to satisfy my desire to see a cast on par with the cast chosen for the film. In brief, as I had noted last summer, scenery and costumes are complex and traditional in styling, with dark, Scottish, craggy hills, an interior castle with balcony and staircase, and leafy woodlands and fountain. Two highly placed Scottish men, both related from the families of Ravenswood and Lammermoor, are in a dangerous game of political power. Enrico, of Lammermoor, needs financial standing and communal strength, and sees potential in a marriage between Arturo and his sister, Lucia. Enrico has lost battles and property, and his only chance to avoid total loss is for this marriage to take place quickly. However, Lucia is in love with Edgardo of Ravenswood, who is the last living soul of his clan, all having been destroyed by Enrico. Lucia, in the woodlands, sees a ghost of a bride, walking about in a disheveled white filmy gown, a premonition of her own fate. Eventually, murder and madness ensue in the castle, with cast and chorus dressed in fine wedding attire.

Unlike the theatrical and impassioned Lucia in the HD film, Anna Netrebko, Albina Shagimuratova is replete with quick shifts in posture and gesture, but, from within, she exudes little credibility as a woman on the cusp of a forced marriage, against her heart. The pièce de résistance, Lucia’s expansive mad scene, with the blood of the groom pouring off her lavish, white wedding gown, was more atmosphere than angst. Just before the offstage stabbing, tonight’s Lucia quickly walked stage right to meet the groom, as the wedding after-party commenced. Tension was also offstage. However, Ms. Shagimuratova’s vocal strength was even more astounding than I remembered from the film, as she reached pure, high notes and held her breath endlessly, even in near quietude. Although other mad scenes (the ballet Giselle comes to mind) have proven more gripping, this diva, whom we witnessed tonight, brought tonal excellence on a par with none. I would hope to see Ms. Shagimuratova again in future operas, perhaps more in her emotional element. The biggest disappointment was in Joseph Calleja’s Edgardo. He had just missed appearances, for illness, prior to tonight’s performance, which was broadcast live on radio, and a substitute would have been wise. In moments of sung agony, as Edgardo believes Lucia has forgotten and rejected him, and later, when he learns Lucia is dying, Mr. Calleja’s arias stopped short with hoarseness and forced yelling. This was nowhere on a par with Piotr Beczala, in the filmed tenor role, who sang with memorable clarity and poignancy and generated heat with Ms. Netrebko.

Likewise, in the film, Marius Kwiecien had appeared in the baritone role of Lucia’s brother, Enrico, and was (as I had noted) menacing and vigorous, with deep, driven tones. Yet, tonight, Luca Salsi, although mastering his vocals with strength and force, was more boyish in nature, not seeming as mature or “operatic” as Mr. Kwiecien. As Raimondo, Ildar Abdrazakov had appeared in the film, and I later reviewed him in solo recital. Raimondo is Lucia’s tutor, who (as I had noted) also seems to be a religious pastor and family counselor. Tonight’s Raimondo was Alastair Miles, who, with impressive bass vocal strength, still seemed dramatically flat. It’s possible that when the Met is filming for HD, the cast, with so many extreme close-ups, focuses more on gesture and physicality, but that should be the norm at all stagings. In fact, I had previously noted in the film review that Enrico, in the wedding scene, showed taut veins and piercing eyes in the close-ups, as he forced Lucia to sign the marital certificate. The chorus, as always, sang with exceptional beauty, and, in the stillness of the wedding tragedies, froze in place. Daniel Ostling’s sets and Mara Blumenfeld’s costumes created a classic sense of regality and history. In the filmed version of the mad scene, with Lucia delusional and singing to Edgardo, although he’s not there, a glass harmonica seemed to appear in the orchestral dissonance. Tonight, it seemed to be a flute. The visual and theatrical details in the recorded performance came alive, and the viewer could hear extended recorded applause. After tonight’s performance of Lucia, the reception was more restrained, although Ms. Shagimuratova certainly had her fans. Check for the 2015 and 2016 opera schedule and tickets.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at