Lucia di Lammermoor at the Royal Opera House
Lucia di Lammermoor was Donizetti’s 46th opera written in 1835 and based on Sir Walter Scott’s similarly titled novel. It was premiered in Naples in its original Italian version, but very soon thereafter a French version (which is rarely performed) was commissioned for the Paris Opera. Many of the great sopranos have sung the role of Lucia, some of whom have made their career as a result, such as Melba, Callas, Sutherland, Anderson, Serra, Gruberova and more recently, Damrau and Dessay.
The story of the opera is one that is typical of the time, dealing in love and death, but also the more intricate family issues of the 19th century, namely murder, suicide, miscarriage and predatory sexual intrigue.
The Royal Opera House gave the Director, Katie Mitchell, the task of putting together a new production of this opera in 2016. It was not well received then and little has changed. Mitchell gives us some thrilling moments and is provocative in her interpretation, but her split screen stage at times appears overzealous and extravagant in its direction. The audience often does not know which stage to concentrate and this is very much to the detriment of the singers and music. This extravagant direction does not leave the audience with the pleasure of using their own reflection to decipher certain scenes, particularly the ‘mad scene’ where the use of three ghostly figures – the child, the mother and the lover – leave nothing to the imagination.
The evening is excellently conducted by Michele Mariotti, who gives us a robust and pacey interpretation of the music, always keeping us on the edge of our seats. It was a shame he did not have the Glass Harmonica in the Third Act, but had an outstanding flautist in its place, which is not an unusual substitute. Mariotti was lucky to have an outstanding cast.
The American, Charles Castronovo, returned to sing the tenor role of Edgardo, with a bright burning authentic interpretation of this role. He was well supported by the Raimondo of Michele Pertusi and the Enrico of the outstanding Christopher Maltman. However, the evening belonged to the sensational young Cuban American soprano, Lisette Oropesa, making her debut at the Royal Opera House. This must be one of the most exciting debuts seen at Covent Garden in a long time. She has a huge range and although her voice is somewhat on the lighter side, it is a voice of real substance that can float its notes like a butterfly and sting like a bee with its brilliant coloratura and constant changes in shading. The role of Lucia can and has made careers and I suspect this one is another.
The chorus, all dressed as men, were outstanding and the evening musically was a great success. Perhaps with more balance on the production provocation it might have been an even greater success.