OPERA NEWS - Lucia di Lammermoor
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Lucia di Lammermoor

Buxton Festival

INASMUCH AS THIS IS AN EVENT where, over the decades, less commonplace titles have generally been favored, Lucia di Lammermoor seemed a somewhat unambitious choice for the second opera in this year’s Buxton Festival program (July 12). 

Donizetti’s bel canto masterpiece was served up in a staging by English theatre director Stephen Unwin that looked, in designer Jonathan Fensom’s costumes, as if the period of the action had been moved to the 1940s—though where it was supposed to take place was far less obvious: there was certainly nothing specifically Scottish about the visuals, while the male principals had the look of Mafiosi in formal attire, and regularly carried guns.

Vocally, this was an acceptable evening. In the title role, the young Welsh soprano Elin Pritchard could have done with more strength and tonal focus in her higher register—in some senses this felt like an old-fashioned coloratura soprano performance of the role—but she could get around all the notes, and rose confidently to most of the vital challenges of the mad scene.

A Welsh tenor despite his Italian name, Adriano Graziani offered a genuinely Italianate quality to his tone as Edgardo, though the result became a little monotonous over the course of the evening; nevertheless there was some fine shaping of the Donizettian line, especially in the double aria in the opera’s final scene. Given the semi-outlaw status of Lucia’s illicit beloved, however—who must surely have at least some hint of a wild, Byronic air about him—Graziani, as costumed by Fensom, seemed about as romantically volatile as your average accountant.  

Lucia’s brother Enrico was sung, forcefully and vividly, by Stephen Gadd. Andrew Greenan made a vocally and dramatically limp Raimondo. Richard Roberts was a small-scale Normanno. Presented as a much older prospective bridegroom for Lucia than usual (which is surely one way of viewing the character), Bonaventura Bottone sounded distinctly on the mature side as Arturo. 

The festival’s artistic director, Stephen Barlow, conducted. Over the years he has enjoyed significant personal successes with late-Romantic scores such as Rusalka, Capriccio and even Tristan, but it seemed here as if the constant vivacity of Donizetti’s rhythms was destined to elude him. Both the Buxton Festival Chorus and the Northern Chamber Orchestra made a solid showing. —George Hall

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