Lucia di Lammermoor

 

Canadian Opera Company: April — May 2013

 

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Photos From Canadian Opera Company's Production of 'Lucia di Lammermoor'
Photos by Michael Cooper and Chris Hutcheson
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Read Some Thoughts About the Production

 

 

 

 

Lucia di Lammermoor: Canadian Opera Company April — May 2013
A Chilling Portrayal of Lust, Insanity and Devastation

Sunday April 21, 2013

by Brian Hay

David Alden's dark vision of Donizetti's 'Lucia di Lammermoor' depicts insanity as part of the makeup of lust for power and the consequences for everyone involved in a way that's beyond chilling. The infamous 'mad scene' conjures sensibilities of being a dark, but resolvable fairy tale at its onset but becomes something horrifyingly fatalistic long before its finish. Yet, nothing in it is gratuitous. For all its graphic nature, every facet serves the story. It was brilliant in both conception and execution.

In Alden's vision of Salvatore Cammarano's adaptation of Sir Walter Scott's story everyone but the title character is a creep, maniac, hypocrite or any number of the above. His allusion to the role of insanity as a driving force in excessive power-lust doesn't stop with 'Lucia'. Her brother, 'Enrico', is portrayed as having bats in his top shelf before there's more than vague hints his sister is coming unglued. Allusions of an incestuous relationship with dominance achieved through physical and mental bondage revealed the depravity behind his obsessive drive that made his character chilling. Baritone Brian Mulligan did a yeoman's job of injecting the character's complete ruthlessness into every note he sang. Superb vocal control and his willingness to go to the edge made the portrayal a stellar one.

Lucia's lover 'Edgardo' is shown as a man who sees her as a means to end hostilities while securing power. His shifts between tenderness and seething anger and willingness to exploit the girl's fragile state were portrayed beautifully by tenor Stephen Costello. His singing in the rare moments of contentment between them combined affection with hints of seductive manipulation well. Moments of rage exploded from the stage. Her confidant, 'Alisa', played with conviction by Sasha Djihanian was shown as somewhat sympathetic but still flowing with the power politics that dominate the home. Djihanian showed formidable range and excellent vocal control in her delivery of the character's musical parts.

As the Chaplain, 'Raimondo', bass Oren Gradus showed himself as the last person anyone should look to for spiritual advice. Portrayals of a grade-A hypocrites don't come any more convincing than this. Fawningly patronizing tones slid off his tongue with the ease of melting butter when he tried to placate the rebellious 'Lucia' into accepting a marriage she didn't want. Righteous indignation bit into the air when he passed the blame for the deaths around him on the actions of everyone but himself. Tenor Nathaniel Peake created a Falstaff like presence for the character of 'Arturo'. His singing features a good combination of control, silken tones and powerful projection. His shading of the character's part with patronizing arrogance made me wish he'd had more time on stage. Tenor Adam Luther rounded out the excellent cast as the resident toady 'Normanno' nicely. His colourful delivery created the convincing impression that the man would have sworn up and down the Brooklyn Bridge was built from recycled watermelon seeds if it served his own interest.

Revival Choreographer Maxine Braham and Stage Manager Liliane Stilwell did marvellous work presenting the onstage choir as an individual entity. Using Original Choreographer Claire Glaskin's work as a model the chorus became a force that played with the protagonists along with moving the elaborate stage machinery around to keep the story flowing smoothly. The lighting, first designed by Adam Silverman and re-created by Andrew Cutbush, combined luminous shades of warmth with startlingly stark cooler shades to produce hauntingly atmospheric tones that sent shadows playing across the sets. The sets, by Charles Edwards, made the halls of Ravenswood an intimidating presence and as a much a part of the proceedings as the characters. The wardrobe, designed by Brigitte Reiffenstuel, defined teveryone's roles in the action instantly. Having 'Edgardo' in a kilt and 'Arturo' in warmly pale shades were excellent touches.

Conductor Stephen Lord's interpretation defined the ideal of "bel canto". The term, which literally means "a lyrical style of operatic singing using a full rich broad tone and smooth phrasing", was personified by the COC orchestra's playing of every lyrical phrase in Donizetti's score. Liberal use of dynamics at key points opened and closed phrases with an extra snap. Punctuation was swift, sharp and emphatic. The acoustic properties of the Four Seasons Centre served the music sublimely. Stunning playing by Harpist Sarah Davidson opened the second scene and unfolded into a lovely blending with the wind and then, the string sections. The choir, under Chorus Master Sandra sang in tandem so smoothly their presence seemed to swell and recede with the ebbs and surges in the music's volume. When moments like these occur (which they do in every production) it's hard to believe there's no microphones used. It's billed as the best opera house in North America and it's living up to that.

In the end, this production belonged to soprano Anna Christy. She projected the aloofness and vulnerability of one on the edge by shading her singing from the first notes that came out. And she did it without sacrificing power. Note after high note spun off effortlessly as she built up the downward spiral of her character. Alternation between stiffness and limp weakness in her physical gestures enhanced the sense of emotional crumbling she projected. Her small size combined with the robust hoop dresses created by Reiffenstuel gave her first act appearances the look of a rag doll hopelessly at the mercy of circumstances around her. The semi-sheer nightdress, shown first in its purity, gave her the look of a china doll about to break. When the true horror unfolded she became a manifestation of pure horror. It's no wonder this production was created for her.

She was made for it. This is a 'Lucia' for any century.

This performance of 'Lucia di Lammermoor' took place at the Four Seasons Centre in Toronto Ontario on Saturday April 20, 2013. This review was written to convey impressions of what it was like to be there.The production runs through to May 24 2013.

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Anna Christy as 'Lucia'
From COC's 2013 Production of 'Lucia di Lammermoor'
Photo by Michael Cooper

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