Article Title:Opera review: Lucia di Lammermoor
Author or Credit:Larry Jenkins
Published on:16th July 2007 - 08:51 pm
Story ID:4562
Text:Review: Lucia di Lammermoor Opera in three acts by Gaetano Donizetti Libretto by Cammarano after Sir Walter Scott NBR New Zealand Opera Conductor Andrea Licata Chapman Tripp Opera Chorus, chorus master John Rosser Elvira Fatykhova, Jason Howard, Yvan Momirov, Carmel Carroll Aotea Centre, Auckland, Thursday 12 July Opening night jitters seemed to plague this production of the most popular of Donizetti's operas about ill-fated women. A slow starter in any case, with thin orchestration in the ominous prelude and the opening scene a mere backdrop for latecomers noisily taking their seats (Donizetti knew Italian audiences), it's not until the second scene that the audience really focuses on the story. Coincidentally, it just happens to be the first time the prima donna appears, and Elvira Fatykhova is certainly worth waiting for. Her execution of the cabaletta “Quando rapita…” was as flawless and light as a bird on the wing. Her Edgardo, Bulgarian tenor Yvan Momirov, is as strange an Edgar as you'll ever hear – all Italian bluster mixed with a misguided sense of drama producing wild bursts of emotion in the music where there's none wanted. Vocally he was upstaged by Wellingtonian Benjamin Fifita Mikisi, a tenor of shining qualities, in the role of Enrico's rival Arturo, whom we're not supposed to like, but I couldn't help feeling I wished the parts were reversed. In the famous sextet, I found myself listening to Makisi as a foil to the shouting Momirov. Fatykhova's “mad” scene, the moment (well, nearly half an hour) that has made this opera the supreme vehicle for coloratura sopranos, was immaculately delivered, up until the first high E-flat, that moment when we always hold our collective breath to see if she makes it. Make it she did, and then – stopped! Truncating the first one may have some dramatic purpose, but the Russian chose to shorten the final one as well – inexcusable! Even if the notation dictates, it is dramatic suicide to squeak out this note and then fall down. (I remember Anna Moffo at the Met years ago doing this and she was roundly booed). It is the shining moment, the climax, the purging, the reason we came, to hear this wonderful, liberating frequence. Not even Callas's uncanny sense of drama ever convinced her to shorten these notes. Fatykhova threw away a chance here to have her audience go wild - her choice, or course, and a selfless one at that, although the Auckland opening night crowd forgave her by the end and the ovation was generous at the curtain. That aside, she is a dazzling Lucia. Jud Arthur acquitted himself superbly as the sychophantic Raimondo, making me wonder yet again at his being seemingly stuck in comprimario and supporting roles both here and in Australia. His is a presence and a basso of biting character, which I always enjoy seeing and hearing. Jason Howard's Enrico seemed vocally unfocused on the night, his voice perhaps not in the best of condition, but dramatically he is imposing. Or own Carmel Carroll in the thankless role of Alisa enjoyed a few dramatic moments that made her presence felt, most particularly when being held back from helping her mad mistress. The sets and costumes of Kate Hawley are impressive. The towering castle wall on stage left which skews the action in its direction is a Kubrickian monolith of power, and the hanging stag trophies which represent the Ashton's faded glory dangle in midair like a vast jury watching the action, eager to pass vengeful judgement. The lighting by Phillip Dexter is pure genius. The lowering sky with much of the hunting party limned against it in silhouette in the first act, and the slight warmth of candle and fire in the otherwise dark and foreboding Ashton banqueting hall for the wedding were touches that concealed their virtuosity. Lindy Hume's direction certainly avoids all the clichés and traditions usually associated with this piece, but even she can't quite figure out what to do with the chorus besides have them stand still a lot of the time. The revelery of the wedding scene, though, is both wittily and brilliantly conceived. John Rosser's choristers, as usual, handle themselves admirably. The Auckland Philharmonia, under a most un-Italianate Italian conductor, was in ropy form at the beginning, with one completely missed entrance and a lot of shonky intonation. Was this the result of under-rehearsing or just bad playing? Either way, as they improved after the interval, the succeeding performances are bound to be better. Conductor Andrea Licata has an impressive record in Italian opera, but tempos were either too fast or too slow; there was never that sense of time suspended that one expects in bel canto operas, and the balance was certainly in the orchestra's favour all night. Larry Jenkins - 16th July 2007    
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