Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Katia Kabanova in Toulon

Káťa Kabanová is, they say, Janáček's first mature opera — it comes a mere 20 years after his masterpiece, Jenůfa.

Peter Grimes in Nice

Nice’s golden winter light is not that of England’s North Sea coast. Nonetheless the Opéra de Nice’s new production of Peter Grimes did much to take us there.

Guillaume Tell in Monaco

Peasants revolt in a sea of Maserati and Ferrari’s.

LA Opera Presents Figaro 90210

Figaro 90210 is Vid Guerrerio’s modern version of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Lorenzo DaPonte’s 1786 opera, The Marriage of Figaro.

Tristan und Isolde at the Wiener Staatsoper

David McVicar’s production of Wagner’s seminal music drama runs aground on the Cornish coast.

Songs of Night and Travel, Wigmore Hall

The coming of ‘Night’ brings darkness, shadows and mystery; sleep, dreams and nightmares; fancies, fantasies and passions.

Andrea Chénier, Royal Opera

Umberto’s Giordano’s Andrea Chénier, now at the Royal Opera House, is no more about history than Jesus Christ Superstar is about theology.

Yevgeny Onegin in Warsaw

Mariusz Treliński’s staging of Tchaikovsky’s operatic masterpiece is visually fascinating but psychologically confusing

Orfeo at the Roundhouse, Royal Opera

The regal trumpets and sackbuts sound their bold herald and, followed by admiring eyes, the powers of state and church begin their dignified procession along a sloping walkway to assume their lofty positions upon the central dais.

Idomeneo in Montpellier

Vestiges of a momentous era . . .

L’elisir d’amore in Marseille

There were hints that L’elisir is one of the great bel canto masterpieces.

Das Liebesverbot opens the new season at Teatro Verdi in Trieste

Aron Stiehl’s production of this rare early Wagner opera cheerfully brings commedia dell’arte to La Cage aux Folles.

Amsterdam: Lohengrin Lite

Stage director Pierre Audi is not one to be strictly representational in his story telling.

Fidelio, Manitoba Opera

For the first time in its 42-year history, Manitoba Opera presented Beethoven’s mighty ode to freedom, Fidelio, with an extraordinary production that resonated as loudly as tolling bells of freedom.

The Hilliard Ensemble: Farewell Concert at Wigmore Hall

Forty-one years is a long time for any partnership to be sustained and to flourish — be it musical, commercial or marital! And, given The Hilliard Ensemble’s ongoing reputation as one of the world’s finest a cappella groups, noted for their performances of works dating from the 11 th century to the present day, it must have been a tough decision to call an end to more than four decades of superlative music-making.

Fidelio opens new season at La Scala

Daniel Barenboim makes a triumphant departure as direttore musicale del Teatro alla Scala with Beethoven’s operatic masterpiece.

Mahler Songs: Christian Gerhaher, Wigmore Hall

Star singer and star composer, a combination guaranteed to bring in the fans. Christian Gerhaher sang Mahler at the Wigmore Hall with Gerold Huber. Gerhaher shot to fame when he sang Wolfram at the Royal Opera House Tannhäuser in 2010.

Modernity vanquished? Verdi Un ballo in maschera, Royal Opera House, London

Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera at the Royal Opera House — a masked ball in every sense, where nothing is quite what it seems.

La Traviata in Ljubljana Slovenia

Small country, small opera house — big ensemble spirit. Internationally acclaimed soprano Natalia Ushakova steps in for indisposed local Violetta with mixed results.

Otello in Bucharest — Moor’s the pity

Bulgarian director Vera Nemirova’s production of Otello for the Romanian National Opera in Bucharest was certainly full of new ideas — unfortunately all bad.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Natalie Dessay as Lucia [Photo by Ken Howard courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera]
15 Mar 2011

Lucia, New York

It costs a lot to look cheap. And it takes a village to raise a child. In the case of the Metropolitan Opera’s current revival of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, it takes a lot of talent to produce underwhelming opera.

Gaetano Donizetti: Lucia di Lammermoor

Lucia: Natalie Dessay; Edgardo: Joseph Calleja; Enrico: Ludovic Tézier. Raimondo: Kwangchul Youn. Conductor: Patrick Summers. Production: Mary Zimmerman. Set Designer: Daniel Ostling. Costume Designer: Mara Blumenfeld. Lighting Designer: T. J. Gerckens. Choreographer: Daniel Pelzig.

Above: Natalie Dessay as Lucia [Photo by Ken Howard courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera]

 

Despite what anyone says regarding soprano Natalie Dessay’s vocal technique or her attendance record at the Met, she is undoubtedly an exciting performer to watch. Joseph Calleja and Ludovic Tézier both bring ample good looks and stage worthiness to the table in addition to fine musicianship and distinctive voices. Director Mary Zimmerman, a 1998 recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” grant, took the theatre world by storm with her 2002 adaptation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. So, why is this Lucia so bland?

LUCIA_Calleja_and_Dessay_29.gifJoseph Calleja as Edgardo and Natalie Dessay as Lucia

From the moment the curtain raises, it appears that the devil is in the details. The overture is a semi-staged affair with depressingly literal lighting effects and, when the action begins, the extremely tight false proscenium looks more like a diorama from the Museum of Natural History than a set from one of the world’s leading opera houses. During the interlude after the first scene, snow falls for no apparent reason other than to justify the large muff that Lucia wields later.

But these are relatively small concerns compared to the generic performances that Zimmerman elicits from her starry cast. Dessay, a stage animal par excellence, even seemed tentative in the first and second acts. Perhaps this was partially due to the limitations placed upon Lucia’s psychological development by making the ghost literally appear during “Regnava nel silenzio.” If Lucia is not unhinged by grief at the beginning, her affection for Edgardo falls short of passion, and the situation with her brother is only vaguely threatening in the second act, then there is little justification for her later actions.

Furthermore, in this production, Lucia appears with her bridegroom at the beginning of Act III, Scene ii and they exit the stage only moments before Raimondo enters and tells the wedding guests what has transpired in the bridal chamber. This robs the audience of seeing Lucia’s shocking transformation from obedient bride and sister into a madwoman. Even worse, the timing is completely off — the horror of the moment stems as much from the realization that the party has gone on for hours as Arturo’s body grew cold as in Lucia’s act itself. There were several such lapses in the storytelling and Zimmerman seems to have stayed too close to the original novel and done the opera a disservice by not treating it as the ripping tale it is.

LUCIA_Dessay_and_Tezier_333.gifLudovic Tézier as Enrico and Natalie Dessay as Lucia

Within the murky and misguided production, the singers did their level best. Dessay rallied for her mad scene which transfixed the audience. Ludovic Tézier looked and sounded the part of Lucia’s brother Enrico, burdened as he was with a costume that made him Severus Snape’s doppelgänger. And while tenor Joseph Calleja was impassioned as Edgardo, unfortunately the tension between the two characters during the Wolf’s Crag scene was nonexistent due to some serious park and bark staging in front of a silly-looking scrim with a mouse hole. Kwangchul Youn was absolute luxury casting in the role of Raimondo and Matthew Plenk handled his duties as Arturo so well that it seemed a real pity to see him go so quickly.

The chorus was well-rehearsed musically but did little to convey the social turmoil that provides the impetus for the action and ultimately serves as a Greek chorus during the opera’s greatest moments of catharsis. Conductor Patrick Summers lead the reliably excellent orchestra with suavity and confidence.

With all the elements in place behind this production — including great source material, a fantastic cast, and the technical and artistic resources of the Metropolitan Opera — the results felt like a waste, much like the blighted life of the opera’s heroine.

Alison Moritz

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):