Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Haitink at the Lucerne Festival

Bernard Haitink’s monumental Bruckner and Mahler performances with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (RCO) got me hooked on classical music. His legendary performance of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 in C-minor, where in the Finale loosened plaster fell from the Concertgebouw ceiling, is still recounted in Amsterdam.

BBC Prom 45 - Janáček: The Makropulos Affair

Karita Mattila was born to sing Emilia Marty, the diva around whom revolves Leoš Janáček's The Makropulos Affair (Věc Makropulos). At Prom 45, she shone all the more because she was conducted by Jirí Belohlávek and performed alongside a superb cast from the National Theatre, Prague, probably the finest and most idiomatic exponents of this repertoire.

Two Tales of Offenbach: Opera della Luna at Wilton's Music Hall

‘Two outrageous operas in one crazy evening,’ reads the bill. Hyperbole? Certainly not when the operas are two of Jacques Offenbach’s more off-the-wall bouffoneries and when the company is Opera della Luna whose artistic director, Jeff Clarke, is blessed with the comic imagination and theatrical nous to turn even the most vacuous trivia into a sharp and sassy riotous romp.

Britten Untamed! Glyndebourne: A Midsummer Night's Dream

This performance of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream at Glyndebourne was so good that it was the highlight of the whole season, making the term ‘revival’ utterly irrelevant. Jakub Hrůša is always stimulating, but on this occasion, his conducting was so inspired that I found myself closing my eyes in order to concentrate on what he revealed in Britten's quirky but brilliant score. Eyes closed in this famous production by Peter Hall, first seen in 1981?

Salzburg encores

A staged piano recital and an opera as a concert.  Pianist András Schiff accompanied the Salzburg Marionette Theater at the Mozarteum Grosser Saal and Anna Netrebko sang Manon Lescaut at the Grosses Festspielhaus.

Leah Crocetto at Santa Fe

On August 4, 2016, soprano Leah Crocetto and accompanist Tamara Sanikidze gave a recital at the Scottish Rite Center in Santa Fe New Mexico. A winner of the Metropolitan Opera Auditions and the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Contest, this year Crocetto was singing Donna Anna in Santa Fe Opera’s excellent Don Giovanni.

Angela Meade at Sante Fe

On July 31, 2016, against the ethereal beauty of the main hall in the Scottish Rite Center, soprano Angela Meade and pianist Joe Illick gave a recital offering both opera and art songs ranging in origin from early nineteenth century Europe to mid twentieth century America. Many in the audience probably remembered Meade’s recent excellent portrayal of Norma at Los Angeles Opera.

Turco in Italia in Pesaro

When more is definitely more, and less would indeed be less. Two of the biggest names in Italian theater art collide in an eponymous theater.

Proms Chamber Music 5: Shakespeare at 400

It was the fifth Proms Chamber Music concert at Cadogan Hall this season, and we were celebrating Shakespeare’s 400th. And, given the extent and range of the composers and artists, and the diversity and profundity of the musical achievement inspired by the Bard, we could probably keep celebrating in this fashion ad infinitum.

La donna del lago in Pesaro

Each August the bleak and leaky, 12,000 seat Arena Adriatica (home of the famed Pesaro basketball team) magically transforms itself into an improvised opera house that boasts the ultimate in opera chic — exemplary Rossini production standards for its now twelve hundred seats.

Proms at … Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

This highly enjoyable Prom, part of 2016’s ‘Proms at …’ mini-series, took as its guiding concept the reopening of London’s theatres following the Restoration, focusing in particular upon musical and dramatic responses to Shakespeare. Purcell, rightly, loomed large, with John Blow and Matthew Locke joining him. Receiving their Proms premieres were the excerpts from Timon of Athens and those from Locke’s The Tempest.

Santa Fe: Straussian Sweet Nothings

With all the bombast of the presidential campaigns rattling in our heads, with invectives being exchanged and measured discussion all but absent, how utterly lovely to retreat and relax into the harmonious soundscape and well-reasoned debate posed in Strauss’ Capriccio, on magnificent display at Santa Fe Opera.

Santa Fe’s Civil War Gounod

When we entered the Crosby Theatre for Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette the stage was surprisingly dominated by a somber, semi-circular black mausoleum, many chambers inscribed with scrambled names of US Civil War era dead.

Coolly Elegant Vanessa in the Desert

Molten passions were seething just below the icy Nordic exterior of Santa Fe Opera’s wholly masterful production of Barber’s Vanessa.

Le Comte Ory, Seattle

Farce is probably the most difficult of dramatic comedy sub-genres to put across. A farce got up in the stately robes of opera sets its presenters an even higher bar. Presenting an operatic farce on a notoriously chilly and cavernous auditorium is to risk catastrophe.

Racette’s Golden Girl in New Mexico

Fan interest began raging when Santa Fe Opera engaged venerable artist Patricia Racette to make her role debut as Minnie in Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West.

Santa Fe’s Mozart Cast Sweeps All Before It

A funny thing happened on the way to Andalusia.

Die Liebe der Danae in Salzburg

The tale of a Syrian donkey driver. And, yes, the donkey stole the show! The competition was intense — the Vienna Philharmonic and the Grosses Festspielhaus in full production regalia for starters.

Snape Proms: Bostridge sings Brahms and Schumann

Two men, one woman. Both men worshipped and enshrined her in their music. The younger man was both devotee of and rival to the elder.

Cosi fan tutte in Salzburg

This Cosi fan tutte concludes the Salzburg Festival's current Mozart / DaPonte cycle staged by Sven-Eric Bechtolf, the festival's head of artistic planning.

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):