> Opera and Oratorio
Lucia di Lammermoor
Dessay; Beczala, Voropaev, Sulimsky, Bannik; Orchestra and Chorus of the Mariinsky Theatre, Gergiev. Text and
translation. Mariinsky MAR0512 (2)
This new Lucia, featuring a conductor not known for his interest in bel canto repertoire and a soprano who has already recorded the opera in its French version, seems curiously motivated. Unfortunately they haven't managed to offer a probing new look at Donizetti's most popular opera. What, then, are they trying to prove?
Valery Gergiev latches onto the Verdian moments — the Wolf's Crag scene in particular — and invests these with plenty of dark power. The rest of the score also receives a heavily accented and thickly expressive reading (Lucia di Leningrad, anyone?), but with little rhythmic nuance or Italianate suppleness of line.
Without the visual impact of her celebrated theatrical engagement, Natalie Dessay must rely on her voice alone to build a convincing musical and dramatic characterization. Alas, her concern here seems to be strictly technical; she coaxes every note into a vocally healthy place, as if an angry voice teacher were standing on the other side of the microphone. Chest voice is nearly banished, along with any expressive shadings, leaving only a juvenile, sugary timbre that sounds as if she were marking.
Surrounded by house singers from the Mariinsky Theatre, tenor Piotr Beczala delivers the only fully realized portrayal. He knows his way around the role of Edgardo (in Mary Zimmerman's Met production, he maintained dignity even during a wrestling match with Lucia's ghost), and his richly textured voice, ardent singing and musical engagement stand out here, not only in his last-act aria but in such moments as "Sulla tomba," where his variety of phrasing is met with bland answers from Dessay, or "Verranno a te," where her kittenish style cannot match his expressiveness.
While the Mariinsky chorus sings heartily enough, Vladislav Sulimsky is a provincial Enrico, displaying loud high notes without ring and a timbre that registers as too elderly. Ilya Bannik's Raimondo offers a more interesting voice but with inadequate Italian. The tenors fare no better, with Dmitry Voropaev's tight sound barely managing Arturo's part and Sergei Skorokhodov presenting an undistinguished Normanno. Zhanna Dombrovskaya is forced to sing half-voice, lest Lucia be drowned out by her maid.
Kudos to the Mariinsky label for continuing to sail beyond Russian repertoire. Lucia just doesn't seem the ideal ship for its voyage.
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