Lyric Opera’s Magnificent Lucia di Lammermoor Is Something To Behold
Reviewed by: James Murray
Donizetti’s masterpiece of passion & betrayal gets a magnificent staging at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. From a breathtaking set, the top-notch direction and the masterful singing and orchestra the Lyric has pulled out all the stops in assembling a world class team of designers and musicians.
I have always felt that Lyric is at its best when it stays true to the period and setting of the piece and author’s original intent. What I feel works so well in this production is how the design is married to the Director’s vision which is married to Donizetti’s score which is married to the compelling story.
The plot of Lucia di Lammermoor, taken from the Sir Walter Scott’s 1819 novel The Bride of Lammermoor, concerns Lucia’s forced political marriage to Lord Arturo Bucklaw in an attempt to save her brother, Lord Enrico Ashton’s, head. Lucia is in love with her family’s arch enemy Sir Edgardo of Ravenswood and secretly meets him on the Scottish moors where they exchange marriage vows. Through trickery of a forged letter by her brother, Lucia is told that she has been betrayed by her lover who is in love with another woman. Heartbroken Lucia agrees to the marriage realizing that her life is over. Edgardo shows up at Lucia’s wedding and confronts her on her betrayal. She realizes that she has been tricked but it is too late. Edgardo tears his ring which she wears from her neck, throws it on the ground and wishes her soul to hell. In the final half of the opera Enrico challenges Edgardo to a duel but all is halted when word comes that Lucia has stabbed her new husband Arturo on their wedding night and has lost her mind. Edgardo forgets his anger and wants to see her but it is too late. She has died from a broken heart and subsequently he commits suicide over her corpse as the final curtain falls.
The multiple award-winning English Director Graham Vick not only understands what is at the heart of Lucia di Lammermoor but takes his cue from Donizetti’s brilliant score through a cinematic staging by building the design entirely around the tempest which begins Act III and the full moon, symbolizing madness.
Paul Brown’s breathtaking set is brilliant in the simplicity of its design. He utilizes walls painted with grey clouds which move both up and down and to each side, splitting in the middle so we are continually seeing the background of the Scottish moors. This remarkably simple technique also allows the director to shift the focus to the exact pinpoint he or she wishes to highlight the moment happening on stage. I also commend Mr. Brown’s incredible eye (and also that of Lighting Designer Chris Maravich) for color and creating dazzling stage pictures. As an audience member you literally cannot take your eyes off the stage.
In the title role of Lucia, Russian soprano Albina Shagimuratova is quite simply outstanding. I have not heard a soprano voice like hers with such agility, range and coloring in a long while. Her technical prowess is indeed something to behold and a reason to see her in this role. She is, in my opinion, one of the great soprano voices alive today. She stopped the show for 3 minutes with a roaring ovation from the crowd with her mad scene.
Polish Baritone Piotr Beczala matches Ms. Shagimuratova on every level. His Edgardo of Ravenswood is a study of passion, remarkable vocal technique and tremendous stage presence.
Hawaiian baritone Quinn Kelsey’s Enrico Ashton rounds out the trio and forms a strong triumvirate. As Lucia’s brother he displays a wide emotional range and gorgeous baritone voice.
The remaining principals are equally stellar in their roles; Adrian Sampetrean (Raimondo Bidebent), Jonathan Johnson (Lord Arturo Bucklaw), Lindsay Metzger (Alisa) and Matthew DiBattista (Normanno).
The Lyric orchestra was in top form under the baton of Conductor Enrique Mazzola with the famous sextet being especially memorable with the volume of beautiful sound they all created.
What rarely happens in opera is when the singer, director, designers and orchestra all come together to provide a thrilling evening of opera at its best. And this Lucia di Lammamoor is definitely a jewel in their crown and one that should not be missed. With only 5 more performances do not miss this one!
Lucia di Lammermoor runs through November 6th.
Visit www.lyricopera.org for tickets, remaining performance dates and times.
Performed in Italian with projected English translations;
Running time: 2 hours 55 minutes including 1 intermission