REVIEW OF STREAMING OF 2009 MET PRODUCTION
The first production streamed by the Met during its “Donizetti Week” (October 12 – 18) was Lucia di Lammermoor. It was followed by six more of his operas, surely a marvelous balm for the opera-starved and a nice diversion from news about Covid-19.
Mary Zimmerman’s spectacular production is set in mid-19th century Scotland and it has the star-power of Anna Netrebko in the title role. She wowed the audience who seemed to be sitting on their hands waiting for the opportunity to burst in applause with unbridled enthusiasm.
Netrebko has enormous star power and dedicated fans, but her performance as Lucia may not be her best. She does well through most of the opera but for better or for worse we wait for the Mad Scene and here her performance was uneven. Her vocal and emotional range simply did not meet expectations and, as much as comparisons are odious, she fell well short of a gold medal performance.
Tenor Piotr Beczala replaced the ailing Rolando Villazon as the Lucia’s lover Edgardo with outstanding results. He sang with true passion, boldness and vocal splendor as the noble lover who is cheated of his love and in the end gives up his life.
Baritone Mariusz Kwiecien sang an impressive Lord Enrico, Lucia’s brother, who needs his sister to marry a rich lord instead of Edgardo. Kwiecien’s Enrico, lips pursed, is a man consumed with anger, self-pity, fear and ambition to save his social position at all costs. It is a vocally demanding role and Kwiecien performs it powerfully and convincingly. Parenthetically, we may add that Kwiecien has ended his singing career for health reasons.
Bass Ildar Abdrazakov sings a strait-laced and sonorous Raimondo, the parson who tries to maintain peace, but we are not sure of how complicit he may be in the plot to save his employer Enrico from ruin.
Mary Zimmerman’s production is highly laudable for her attention to detail and her overall dramatic result. In the opening scene when Lucia tells her companion Alisa (Michaela Martens) about seeing the ghost of a young girl who was killed by the fountain, we see an apparition that touches Lucia’s face. At the end of the opera when Edgardo hears that Lucia is dead and is about to stab himself, the apparition of Lucia appears, and she puts her hand on his sword as he stabs himself. He falls on the ground and dies upon a kiss.
Zimmerman adds a photographer for the arrival of Lord Arturo (Colin Lee), the rich would-be groom. (That is another way to date the production). It works well as the photographer scampers around trying to align people for his photo shoot.
The sets by Daniel Ostling are highly effective. In the opening scene we are in the Scottish wilderness where soldiers are looking for Edgardo with dogs. The great hall of the castle and the grand staircase that Lucia descends in her bloodied wedding dress work well.
There is a problem with the scene that is supposedly in the desolate Wolf’s Crag where Edgardo and Enrico confront each other during a storm. We see the lightning, but the scene seems to take place in a comfortable room. Edgardo has a large easy chair and a lamp. Enrico comes down the large staircase that we will see in the penultimate scene. Unsatisfactory.
Gary Halvorson, the director for cinema and the man who decides what we see, did his usual hatchet job again. Never let the audience enjoy a shot for more than a few seconds. Edgardo and Lucia sing their beautiful farewell duet in the second scene. We would be happy if he took his hands off the click button and let us enjoy the scene. He does not and keeps clicking throughout the production.
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Marco Armiliato cannot be faulted with anything.
The few complaints did not ruin the production and I have seen it several times and enjoyed it every time.
Lucia di Lammermoor by Gaetano Donizetti was streamed by the Metropolitan Opera on October 11, 2020. For more information visit: www.meropera.org