Lucia di Lammermoor at the English National Opera
David Alden’s 2008 staging is brought back to the Coliseum for its second revival, with an outstanding cast, a compelling translation into English by Amanda Holden and clever moving sets by Charles Edwards. This is a truly interesting performance of a subject – forced marriage, here of Lucia – which is relevant in some communities even today. However, this is the Scottish Highlands and the dark and unattractive costumes, designed by Brigitte Reiffenstuel, are a testament to Highland imagery.
The revival movement Director, Maxine Braham, gives us the best of fight scenes. Lucia, bloodied and alone, ensures that her madness penetrates the heart of her audience. But perhaps not quite alone. The chorus is removed from stage in the ‘mad scene’, but her Chaplain is present, as well as her companion, Alisa. She annoyingly appeared as a frightened wreck all night and was left to pretend at playing the glass harmonica. I am not sure her role interpretation really worked, but this really didn’t detract from an outstanding Alden production. As usual with this Director, his direction was deep in meaning and full of dark brooding scenes and bloody intent.
Musically, this was a satisfactory evening, with the English National Orchestra and Chorus on very fine form under the baton of, Stuart Stratford. The splintering glass harmonica in the ‘mad scene’ was played by Philip Marguerre in alarming coordination and resonance with the Lucia of the thrilling Sarah Tynan. For a soprano who had been unwell and unable to sing a few days before this performance, to meet the demands required from her vocal instrument was outstanding. Her performance, both visually and vocally, was of the highest quality, particularly with her ability to use her effortless tessitura and clarity of timbre, even though on the odd occasion at the very top of her voice there was a slight thin dryness of sound.
She was matched by her lover, Edgardo, the young Mexican tenor, Eleazar Rodriguez, whose outstanding tenor sound is helping him make a great career on both sides of the pond. Lucia’s brother, Enrico, was sung by the dramatic American baritone, Lester Lynch, who gave us a gruff but abusive interpretation of his role, with very little brotherly love to show.
Lucia’s imposed bridegroom was sung by the clear tenor sound of the slimy Michael Colvin, who possessed a white suit and the longest cigarette holder that I have ever seen!
Clive Bayley returned to sing the Chaplain, ensuring that every word sung was clearly audible and understood, even though the interpretation of the role appeared somewhat staccato and awkward at times. Enrico’s retainer, Normanno, was sung by the ENO Harewood Artist, Elgan Llyr Thomas, who started slowly, but produced some outstanding quality singing by the end of the evening.
Altogether, a fine revival of this lyrical opera, with blood, gore and much, much more.